Oct72011

Feb152010

Can’t think of a clever headline.

India got it’s Obama long before US got its. We have a decent man (MMS) at the helm of the nation for last 6 years and by the looks of it 4 more at least. In fact we’ve even avoided Dubyas for ourselves for a long time. The last time we had a Gandhi as an official head of the nation was over 21 years ago. We also gave women “real” political power long before the west. We’ve had presidents which represent the rainbow of our multi-ethnicity. We’ve had Sikhs, Muslims, Kannadigas, Telugu, Maharashtrian and Jats as Prime Ministers. We’ve had many Chief Ministers of assorted castes belonging at bottom of the Hindu caste structure as well as practicing non-Hindus. In short, if Obama is going to stand for the hope or the unrepresented, he’s fairly late to the Indian political soiree.

Hereditary lineage is a small price to pay for better governance. I agree to a very large extent that Congress is almost family business. In the Indian context, this concept is not so hard to swallow. It’s almost a celebrated tradition to pass on one’s wealth, power and status down the generation. It’s also our “social security”. I don’t see the Indian populace throwing out the Congress because of their failure to produce a leader of PM quality without the Gandhi DNA. India has punished Gandhis for fiddling with its demographic fabric in 1975 and later in 1989 for corruption stink. Gandhis have not let the country slide into a Pakistan. Letting go of political power in the hope of getting it back is not easy to fathom for those who have never had it. A Gandhi was also the only leader of the national party to have had the forethought of not electing themselves as the head of the nation twice (1991 and 2004), shows acute political acumen.

As far as actual leadership qualities go, I agree we probably have more charismatic and imaginative young leaders than Rahul. Apart from the obvious positive first impression Rahul made, to me he stood for more than his last name. He connects with the demographic more than his opposition which finds itself unable to change fast enough with the times. Congress has a slew of younger leaders that seem to be under grooming for the future.

Your example of Nandan Nilkeni goes to confirm my belief that Chanakya is working for Congress. His predecessor Narayanmurthy got brickbats for heading the Bangalore Airport Project under the leadership of Gowda in Karnataka. Shashi Tharoor is another example. Leaders that this generation will embrace tomorrow. I’m not sure what your opinion is of him, but my thoughts about his tweets are more in synch than not. He’s put himself up for evaluation and approach to India like never before. It’s refreshing to hear a leader’s thoughts directly and be able to give him feedback instantaneously. Like Nilkeni, Tharoor too got his opportunity under the Congress. It’s also heartening to know that he’s not been fired despite ignorant old world media’s hullabaloo over every tweet.

There are others in the stable Jyotiraje Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Omar Abdullah, Jitendra Prasad, Kumari Selja among others. These leaders will get their chance in due time. It almost gives you hope that for the right people ( i know someone in my friends list who has serious ambitions ), the time is better than ever before.

On the other side, there is a vacuum. A vacuum of ideas, hope and vision. Naked lust for power consumes the opposition. But demographic is out there for them to connect with.

Perhaps the biggest mistake is to assume the Idiot demographic to be stupid.

Since the writing of my post above. Shiv Sena got a ONE TIGHT SLAP on Friday, the slap made Bal Thackeray’s dentures fly out and fall somewhere between the 3 and 4th row from the back of the closest multiplex during the screening of ‘My Name is Khan’. Ram Sene’s Muthalik was “black-faced” somewhere in Karnataka and this dude from Raj Thuggery’s MNS released a Valentine’s album while others are taking justice in the own artistic hands (NID student carves a permanent Joker smile on Chaudhary, the molester police officer).

Jai Ho!

Feb152010

Chanakya, 3 Idiots, Rahul and the Signals in the Noise.

In 2008, I bumped into Rahul Gandhi at a bookshop in Heathrow. I couldn’t resist saying Hi. He put his hand forward, shook mine firmly, looked me in the eye and with a winning smile, said “Hi” back.

I wished him Good Luck for the upcoming elections (which they later swept) and he thanked me back loud and clear. That was the end of it. There was an unmistakable connect. I thought, Yes, I could vote for him. If younger intellectuals (I’ve stopped being modest about it now) like me can connect with him, I’m sure there would be others. If choosing your leader is going to boil down to picking the lesser evil, let my poison be mine.

He’s silently swiftly sweeping the nation. He’s shaking hands with the people, who are buying tickets to see 3 Idiots, who are going to come out and vote again in a few years time. I’m not yet a fan of Rahul Gandhi per se, but i certainly prefer him over the rest of them.

The signal in the noise for politicians and parties is clear, do you connect with the aspirations and desires of those who would buy tickets for 3 Idiots?

BJP got a jolt in the last 2 elections and their future does not look bright in the next one as well. I don’t think they have a connect with the Idiot generation. The generation that connected with BJP was the angry young man generation of Zanjeer. Their followers are mellower now. The chicken legs under the khakhi knickers have arthritis. Also arthritis 2 inches north of the nose. The assorted bunch of clowns in VHP, RSS and Bajrang Dal are also unlikely to find a footing or resonance in modern India. The lust for power of the senior members of the party choked it, they prevented any fresh blood from entering the veins. Rahul shakes your hand.

Shiv Sena is a dying brand of a dying hateful old man. It’s bullying toothless posturing, irrational and divisive agenda, absence at times of crisis have distanced themselves from the Idiot generation beyond repair. Their mandate is going to reduce further in a few years time. Once Bal Thackeray goes to the grave, his power will vanish however one hopes he sees that for himself before he meets his maker. Every time a Thuggery makes a statement, they’re digging a deeper hole for themselves and their party. Rahul delivers a winning smile.

Communists are disintegrating among themselves. They don’t know their Maoists from their Marxists. With exemplary leaders of the kind Achutanandan in Kerala and Karats somewhere in the center and no-one out in the west, it’s fast reducing into oblivion. Rahul says Hi.

So who is the next opposition? To me, the new opposition is an assortment of parties that connect with those who cant buy tickets to 3 idiots. Probably BSP and the assortment. There is no denying that hundreds of years of the caste system has taken its toll. We’ve given them reservation in jobs, colleges, civil administration and they’ve lapped it up. They’re also making sure that they’re getting their moolah with their power. Corruption is rampant and power will shift towards the have-now-had-nots. It will take a generation or two of prosperity for them to catch up. In the forseeable future, they will be the opposition for the next 20-30 years in India. Rahul gets serious.

Congress has made a firm bet on the future. Their young turks (mostly netas ka betas for now) under the tutelage of Chanakya, the graduating class of 2014, 2019, 2024.

I’m extremely optimistic about our country. The last 60 years were necessary for the next 60.

Dec72009

Excess Baggage woes and a seemingly good idea

Nothing hurts like having to pay for excess baggage.

It’s always insulting and you feel really bad trying to persuade the check-in staff to let go. Even if you get over that, it’s always expensive. Then you hear stories from other how they “got-off” from having to pay for excess baggage and feel cheated when you couldn’t get the same deal. I’ve heard of people trying to aim for a forgiving looking check-in staff to check-in with in case they think they might be slapped with excess baggage charges.

I’ve been nervous about it during my frequent travels when I’ve been moving countries (I’ve lived in 5 countries and many cities for a considerable time in each).

The last time I was slapped with a fine MORE than the return economy class fare from India to Berlin on Qatar Airways (generally sucky airline!) with no option available for baggage to be sent later or separately in cargo. I was even prepared to upgrade a seat to business class to get a reduction in excess baggage charge, but NO sirree bob!

Much goodwill is lost with the traveler. I for one wont ever travel with Qatar Airways if I had an option.

From the airline point of view, I really wonder how much it really costs them to allow excess baggage? I have a feeling it averages out. I’m sure there are lots of people on the plane with luggage under the limit. Even if everyone exceeds the baggage limit, the total extra weight cannot be more than a 1000-1500 Kgs overall, I would imagine. They primarily have to adjust the excess baggage against extra fuel that the aircraft might have to spend to fly the extra weight. On the whole, excess baggage is a net *fucking* huge profit for the airline. And every time a passenger pays it, the airline loses goodwill. Over time, and in the twitter age, a bad recommendation travels far. In future, when social suggestion and validation is going to be prime tools for product selection by customers, keeping up goodwill is of more importance today then ever before. Frequent Flyer miles are just too hard to redeem and frankly I’ve stopped being loyal to one airline simply for a the carrot at the end of the stick.

Now I think i’ve got a good idea how this can all be improved. Right now, there is penalty for flying with excess baggage but there is NO reward for flying under the baggage limit. I mean i’d PAY to get into a club where i got rewards for flying light and then trade them off the one time I shopped a lot. Or I’d have the ability to trade them off to someone who needed it more than I did and benefit from my under 20kg travels.

Everytime, I fly under the excess baggage limit, I’d get credit for the number of Kgs under the baggage limit. Everytime, I fly over the excess baggage limit, I’d get my points reduced by 1:1 or perhaps less ratio, similar to earning and spending air-miles.

A Facebook or some such social application could help people with baggage allowance points to trade them on an online marketplace, live when you needed them.

Of course, I haven’t thought of all the modalities and probably flew buy some important detail, but right now I’m just excited by a good idea.

Sep22008

Rot-Teej

So I went over to my dear friend Siddhartha Totuka’s place for lunch today. The occasion was Rot-Teej. Despite having lived in Jaipur for most of my life, I had never heard of the festival before. As far as I’m concerned, the highlight of the festival is the special lunch.

I heard from Yogita a couple of days before about what was going to be prepared on that day and frankly it didnt appeal to me. My mom concurred later last night that I am not going to like it since she knows my food habits.

There was no way I was going to weasel my way out of Sid’s invite so I went. In short, I tried a new cuisine today and I liked it. Not bad!! The food consists of a star shaped “rot”. It like a thick buscuit, like a Bati (from Daal Baati) but i really hate Daal Baati so I think it was way better than a Baati. You divide the plate into 2 parts. One side contains boora (sugar) and the other side is mirchi (green chilli preparation). Then there is a raita contain torai (gourd? not sure of the english name of this vegetable). You are supposed to crush the rot with your hands, pour heaps of ghee and have it alternatively with sugar and with raita and mirchi. It was heavy and I’m sleepy just writing it. But I think I had enough and really enjoyed my lunch today!!

Thanks Sid and Yogita, you both rock!

Sep12008

Dude, how inconsiderate can you be?

So the girl gets to sit as the 3rd passenger, hold you stupid briefcase, balance herself like a damn cuckoo bird while you 2 morons drive your bike like crazed monkeys. Also she’s not allowed to touch you or the idiot in the middle. Where do I pay for this circus?

Hold that bag!

Hold that bag!

Sep12008

What’s happened to the roads in Jaipur?

Until a few months ago, I felt Jaipur roads were pothole free, clean, wide and something to be proud of. We could hold our heads high when people from other bigger cities visited us and show them how well kept our heritage city was. Jaipur was the shining example of how a modern city ought to be. It was more like a responisibility and a duty, since so much of Jaipur depends on tourism.

Look at the city now, it’s a fucking dump! Now I know there is a good reason for all the digging. They’re apparently laying the pipeline to provide a steady supply of water from Bisalpur. That’s noble and something again we should support due to its obvious long term benefits. But the problem is how it is being managed. Is it not important to build the road back once the pipes have been layed? Who and what is being done about it? When is it going to be done? Is it going to be done? Where is that information?

Our city deserves better.

Jan162007

Melbourne Non-Ashes Sports Day 29th December 2006

This was supposed to be the day we went to see the 4th day of the 4th Ashes test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was not to be. Australia routed England for the 4th time in the series and the match was over on the 3rd day itself. Bummer!

 

With the whole day free, it was decided that we’ll go play Squash as we’ve got a few budding Squash players and a few regular Squashers (if that’s even a proper word). Everyone one got up really late and I guess lazed around and achieved nothing for a greater part of the day. We didn’t even take too many photographs!

 

Anyway, we finally reached the Sports Centre at Monash University’s Clayton campus late in the afternoon. Some of us were not properly dressed for the occasion but that was not going to dampen the spirit. Vasu and Chinx headed towards the tennis court and the rest of us preferred the indoor comfort of the Squash Court. Chinx gave Vasu the runaround with the tennis ball and I suppose they were on the verge of getting a sunstroke after like 15 mins. We were happy to welcome them in the squash courts with sweaty arms.

 

At the squash courts, everyone took to the courts. Some without shoes. It was Ridhi’s homecourt. Rishabh and Tanu gave each other a good game. Katrix showed a lot of potential and Shanu had enough powershots in his quiver. The rest of us kinda enjoyed ourselves a lot without taking it too seriously.

 

Some of us drove home while the rest of us tried to gatecrash the MCG in vain. Ridhi , poor girl, had a minor tragedy at home when the washing machine at home went bonkers and water overflow caused havoc on the carpet. Ridhi’s roommate Julia was a little distressed but Ridhi helped in bringing the situation under control. According to the latest reports, the carpet is dry and there are no smells (at least no new ones).

 

Girls dressed up and Boys tried to dress up for an evening on Lygon Street. It’s a popular street in Melbourne for Italian food. We planned to make a big night out of it, but ended up making a medium sized night. Had a quick stop for drinks at a bar before ending up at some Italian place (of course). Rishabh and I were really keen on Indian but the rest of the group dismissed us as if we were flies. The food was okay and I guess the only memorable highlight was that we playing Mafia in public. How ironic to play a game called Mafia at an Italian restaurant by 10 indians. We had a short pit stop at a Gelataria before heading home via another stop for Internet and Refueling.

 

We were due to fly to Sydney early next morning so everyone was requested to sleep early and wake up at 4AM. Some of us slept at 2:30 AM. What happened in the morning is well..the next post.  

Jan152007

Dandenong, Healsville and Philip Island in a day

28th December 2006 was destined to be a long and tiring day. We were all forewarned to wake up early and be prepared to sleep really late.
I dont know how we managed but i think most of us were out and about by 11 (which was good considering there were only 2 bathrooms between the 10 of us, slept really late). Our first stop was the Dandenong Ranges. These are beautiful mountains , kind of south east of Melbourne. We drove there in good time. Katrix and Shreyans were both in my car and I think Katrix got bugged cos i was talking to Shreyans about business and software and stuff. He probably heaved a sigh of relief when we came to our first stop, but i think he was mistaken cos there was going to be no end to serious talks when i’m in the car. Makes it easier for others to sleep as i see it.

Anyway, Ridhi led us to this stop ( i think ) and we decided we might as well have a token “Trek” and decided to walk 1.6 kms to Shrebrooke Falls. The trek was easy and fun for the guys while the girls (here i must digress and let you know that i mean all girls except Ridhi, cos although she’s a girl she almost invariably sides with the guys and takes very little bathroom time) were whinging a tad. Once we reached the falls, it was unremarkable cos the falls had shrunk to a piss stream. Anyway, we got a few photo-ops.

Healsville Sanctuary was apparently way out on the map, but since we were doing quite good with traffic and directions and time, decided that we should head there next.

On the way, we would stop at Lilydale park for a bar-be-cue, and after Healsville, head to Philip Island.

So, after a drive that seemed short, we arrived at Lilydale park and it was lovely. There was a pond and plenty of space. We found a very convenient barbie and it lit for free at the press of a button. It was clean and we mostly had to cook veggie burgers. Barbie was a first for Katrix and i think he was keen to flip some burgers.

I’m not sure how many people loved it but it was all quite a lot of fun for me. Wish we had more time to spend there but we didnt. We headed to Healsville from there. This was specifically put in the trip for the local fauna experience. It was not bad but certainly not as good as a similar experience later in Queensland. Everywent went gaga over the Koalas and Tanu and I were satisfied by our Photo taking prowess. Pictures turn out nice if you’ve got a steady hand, a good camera and the right amount of light. There were other highlights during this stop and probably someone else should expand on it. About this time, I think we realised that the Boxing Day Ashes Test was going to be over before the end of the day and our 4th day tickets were n
We headed straight towards Philip Island for the Pengiun Parade. It was a long drive from there and it almost took us 2 hours or more.

People were really hungry by this time again. We raided a chocolate factory soon after entering Philip Island. It was run by Malaysian based Indians and there was some okie-dokie food. We were really really lucky that we can called ahead and booked (an idea proposed by me ahem ahem) for the Penguin Parade earlier in the day when we were at Lilydale.
There were thousands of people at Philip Island and people who hadnt booked were being turned away. The car in which I wasnt there almost didnt make it thanks to the pesky guard who didnt understand the fact that we had a booking. He had understood it when I said the same thing earlier. So, the most fabulous part of the experience almost didnt happen. It was really cold in Melboure and hopefully we were all well dressed for the night ahead.
So, this place was built like an amphitheatre but straight and facing the beach. We waited patiently for a short while and then the little penguins appeared. Slowly they all appeared from the cold sea and made their way under us to their nests and burrows. It was all quite a touching experience. We dont have pictures of this as these penguins dont like it. So then we spent sometime watching them tumble and walk in a line. They are the smallest penguins but they make up with the noise (and fearlessness). We all wished we could pick one for home. They were easy enough to steal if one was criminally inclined. After an longish interruption at the souvenir shop we headed home. It was dark and late. Katrix had vowed not to sit in the same car as me, lest he be subjected to conversation relating to business or anything remotely intellectual once we were home. We were home by 1:30 am.
The other car went ahead to shop for food (Tanu has his final meal of the day between 1-2 AM every single day of his life!). I think we found the energy to play a round of Mafia or two.
Slept late and slept tight. Slightly disappointed because we werent going for cricket the next day.
Jan152007

Melbourne Darshan 27th December 2006

Vasu who is then ringleader (with Ridhi playing the part of trusted lieutenent) had kept this day light on activities in their immense wisdom. And they were right in case you were wondering if i’m being a tad sarky.

Ridhi, Rishabh and I drove into town to pick up the other rental car and picked up a stupid parking ticket as well since the Avis counter was busy and it took us 21 minutes while we were paid up for 20 minutes. A$50 down the gutter you might say. We decided on picking up the new Holden Commodore instead of a Santa Fe/Tucsan. The reason was that we didnt need to carry around a lot of luggage until the drive to the airport when we were leaving and it was cheaper. In effect it was a cool decision, since it actually turned out to have more boot space anyway plus it was a new car. It was fun taking out a brand spanking shiny light blue coloured car. I’m having fun just writing this. Our other car was a red Corolla (ho-hum).

So we went home, packed the jamboree in the cars and drove downtown for our first Melbourne darshan.

First stop, Fed Square car park. We took our time taking lovely pictures here and the evidence will be attached. From there we walked the city, up and down, swanston and bourke, you know getting lost and taking pictures etc etc. After roaming purposelessly for a while and frankly not having any better ideas, we consulted Ridhi since she’s a kinda like a local. Her bright idea was Rialto Tower’s Observatory Deck. So onwards and upwards to Rialto.
So this Rialto Tower is allegedly the tallest tower in Melbourne, but to me another new building seemed a worthy contender.
Anyway, we watched 20 minutes of video on Melbourne sightseeing before we went up there. I promised Katrix before the lights were dimmed that there wont be any song and dance so there is no need of popcorn. I was wrong, it was 20 minutes of music and there was a dance in it too.
The view from top was top. I’ve been to these towers a few times in a few different cities and my opinion is that unless you live in that city, the experience is always forgettable. This one had an outer pen so you could feel the air, which was cool. I used my new DSLR camera to zoom in on the screen in MCG to read the score and see Flintoff bowl. That was quite amazing actually.
On the way down we got stuck at the souvenir shop. It was only later we realized that this trip was going to be underscored by many many such distractions. However this distraction allowed us to take assorted pictures around escalators etc.
Our next destination was Crown Casino. By the time we walked there, it finally dawned on us, that we had’nt eaten the whole day and were craving for food. So, we raided the food court. There was no chance to into the casino since Katrix is underage. He did beg to be allowed to the bar (so he could see the score of the India SA Test match). We made a futile attempt to watch a movie and finally took a poll and decided to head home.
The walk back was tiring but necessary. The upside (for me at least) was the sunset light, allowing for some nice pictures.
I dont remember where we ate that night but it wasnt memorable enough for me to comment.
I suppose we played Mafia that night, that is after Rishabh explained it in detail with Rashmi proving to be the other other lead.