Wednesday, December 9, 2009

HIT LIST - A review of a Ray (Sandip) film

If expectations from the audience of a Sandip Ray film are high, one can only sympathise with the film maker. Carrying the creative writing lineage of 3 generations of past geniuses on his shoulder, Sandip Ray displayed enough courage to write & direct (including music) a non-Feluda whodunit flick set in the backdrop of two cities, Kolkata & Kualalampur. The film is called Hit List although it failed to deliver a hit where it most matters, in the box office. And surely, Sandip Ray's effort flattered to deceive so far as the embedded intelligence of a whodunit is concerned. The script however has its moments of suspense , shock & an eeriness from confounding apparitions . Confounding because like many other scenes, including a photo-shoot at the Floatel & a low-skilled billiards game between the cops, ghost faces seem completely mindless.

In short, the movie is about the sequential execution of executives of an ad agency in a secret hit-list and its eventual detection by a private investigator, Pravat Roy. The latter is played by an experienced thespian , Dhritiman Chatterjee. Dhritiman plays an ex-cop whose method of detection is mostly based on "hunches". A far cry from the logical deduction process made famous by Sherlock Homes & adapted by Satyajit Ray in his Felu'da films. Dhritiman appears to be a complete miscast. There is enough thick line of difference between an intellectual & an intelligent person. Pravat Roy's role comes across as more of the former. The only actors to do justice to their roles were Tota Roychowdhury & Koel Mallick . Kualalampur was a visual delight , well filmed but did precisely nothing else to the story. Just like the role of Tinu Anand in the movie.
In conclusion, if you are going to watch Hit List because you expect a tight thriller, you will be disappointed. Even Sandip Ray states its only a social drama with thriller elements.
Just wonder when did a "Hit List" ever become a social issue ?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inflation in Indian Economy 2009


Price Rise. It started with the poultry products & sugar nearly an year back & now the malady has spread even to basic food commodities like rice, pulse,vegetables, bread, milk etc.. The price rise has been near about 30% based on market price although the Consumer Price Index (CPI) reflects around 11 %. Even the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) of minerals,metals & fuel reflect a largely deflated figure of 3% whereas the market prices of certain commodities like zinc etc. has risen by nearly 30% in last nine months alone.
The Indian economy is going through quite uncharted waters. With a projected GDP growth of 6% in 2009-10 & inflation rate (based on WPI) around 6% , one can not only expect market inflation rate to be sustained around 25-30% but this inflation may also be a handy tool for the RBI to increase the interest rate . The stock market is showing typical irrational volatility (although only punters seem to notice a method in the madness). An example would be the rapid appreciation of IT stocks in spite of the rupee appreciating vis-a-vis the dollar.
It is a question in every body's mind as to when, if at all, the dollar would strengthen. From the posturing of the US administration, it does appear that US-China ties are now purely focused on restraining the Chinese from making the Yuan fully convertible as well as on continuation of Chinese investment in US treasury bills .
Does that mean the market has factored in the expected depreciation of rupee in the next 4-6 months? Is the stock market always right? Internationally, operations of large-scale rapid-entry-and-exit type investors have started significantly affecting the stock market in emerging markets like India, Brazil etc. Even in commodity exchanges, this tendency is visible.
The Indian industry do seem to fulfill the growth expectations of the stock market as its operating on a low base on an year-to-year basis but the effect should die down in the next two quarters. With consumer demand of automobiles, white & brown goods still not showing any signs of dramatic recovery, it kind of appears contrived that traders & retailers are focusing on profiteering in the essential commodity market of food . The silence of the finance minister on the price rise is definitely intriguing. The absence of any confidence building measure undertaken by the government to arrest the price rise is that much more painful.
The 1 Rupee coin in the extreme right hand of the picture is marked 2009 at the back. In an economy where demand side is ruling (as opposed to supply-side economy in 2002-05) & inflation is hardening ; focus should be made to generate more & more domestic demand by exploring all possibilities of employment. Without it, the economy is bound to suffer as shrinkage of demand in essential commodities will shrink the economy even further. It may not take long ,then ,for the 1 rupee coin to attain the same size & mass of the other two coins in the picture (the first one is a 1 paisa bronze coin of 1957 & the second one a 10 paisa coin of 1988).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Annual 2009 Salty Blog awards



The annual 2009 Saltyblog Awards for significant contribution to the country in each of the following fields (sorted alphabetically) are here:

Best Bureaucrat : RS Pandey, petroleum secretary for helping natural gas production to reach 60 million units at a price that is 2.5 times more rewarding to the private explorer than the originally agreement drawn between the feuding Ambani brothers.

Best Corporate Chairman : Ramalingam Raju for taking the lead in demonstrating to 50000 employees that admission of guilt is the best policy in a hopeless situation & also for his patriotic preference to being caged in Indian jails (possibly for for a few years) instead of spending the rest of his life in a firangi American Jail.

Best Economist : Amartya Sen. For discarding the subject of economics to write a book on philosophy of justice & vaguely hinting through his example of "3 flutes" that distributive justice is better achieved if the seats in the best institutions of learning are reserved for the socially deprived rather than academically meritorious.

Best Eligible Bachelor: Rahul Gandhi , for the second time in a row. For hinting, by his continued absence from ministerial politics & his habit of gatecrashing in any rural home for dinner, his unfulfilled desire of a permanent "home" minister who can also cook him great meals.
Best Engineer(s) : From Delhi Metro , who demonstrated to the national media how to dislodge a 200 ton steel girder sitting on crumbling pillars & then how to fail in lifting the girder with the help of three cranes of varying cable strengths & finally how to save ones' backside by passing the blame onto the contractors .

Best Friends: The Sainiks of Maharashtra who decided to part ways before the elections to be under two brothers & for repeatedly demonstrating , albeit separately, to the entire nation their fondness for their common hobbies of Marathi chauvinism & north-Indian bashing.

Best Marketing Manager: The Indian cellular industry jointly. For reaching a record subscriber base of 0.5 billion & for helping to partially overturn the infamous quote of the Emergency era : "Work More, Talk Less."

Best Politican : Dr. Manmohan Singh , for the second time in a row, for leading his party for a second term in the Loksabha elections as well as for hinting in his comment , "I am an extinguished economist, not a distinguished one,(any more)" his probable preference for political compliments.

Best Sportsman : Mamata Bannerjee, chief of Trinamool Congress for emerging victorious in the panchayat, Lok Sabha, municipality, assembly by elections & raising some semblance of hope in nearly three decades among the politicised, poverty-ridden, unemployed, unenterprising, educated & violent residents of both rural & urban West Bengal. Kind of the champion of T20, ODI & Test match variety of Bengal electoral politics.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just A Story series: JAS1- That Red Object

Rat-tat-rat-tat-rat-tat………………….
It sounded like those serial crackers rattling on and just as the petrified puppy pitter pattered in front of our car, the driver bent double forward on the brakes.
A red coloured object rectangular in shape popped out of Mandira’s hand bag as she was fiddling for some paracetamol. She quickly retrieved the object & before the car came to a perfect halt, she had already shoved it inside her bag.

“What’s that?”, asked Aashant , not sure whether he was getting personal because for a nanosecond he felt that the object was actually a coloured condom pack. It looked somewhere similar to the one he was holding for the last one year in his bachelor accommodation. Aashant was secretly respectful of Mandira’s boldness in carrying a condom in her hand bag, ready for use in extreme situations of intimacies with quasi strangers. But Aashant’s gut feelings said that she too was carrying the same pack for more than one year. Hence he had already settled into a state of quiet reassurance before Mandira replied , in a somewhat hurried tone, “Its Chicklet!”

A procession was winding its way up the hill in this market town with its band of garish-coloured turbaned clankers & bangers. Fire crackers were being tossed about by the revellers & the dogs were disappearing out of sight in a flash. The puppy in front of our car was nowhere to be seen . Living on the streets, they mature mentally quite fast.

Aashant thought whether he should ask for one of the Chicklets but prudence ruled otherwise.

In the meanwhile the car had already moved past the revellers & was approaching the only government hotel in this hill city . A sleepy receptionist at the hotel handed over two sets of keys to Aashant & Mandira.
“We’ll meet at 8 p.m for Dinner at the restaurant..” , Aashant said at the lift gates.

Exactly at 8 p.m Aashant was at the table feeling fresh after a warm shower. Quite uncharacteristically Aashant had also brushed his teeth with his mint-flavoured toothpaste tonight. In his mind , he brushed it off as a freak longing for mint.
The soft click-eti-click of the falling door keys on the table signalled the otherwise quiet arrival of Mandira. Mandira looked slightly tired. She did say she was feeling feverish in the evening.
Aashant called the waiter & quickly ordered a light dinner with a pork side dish. Pork in hilly areas such as these is extremely fresh & soft. Aashant chitchatted for a while eating, signed the bill at the end and headed off after Mandira towards their respective rooms. On their floor as they alighted from the lift, Aashant offered her a mint Chicklet from his shirt pocket.
“Care for an after-dinner mint ?”
“Thanx. I’ll be ready by 9.00 a.m tomorrow. Good night”

Was he secretly happy that she has taken the chicklet ? Did it mean she actually didn’t have any with her? So that red object must be……..Will she discover the connection ?
Aashant quickly banished those thoughts from playing truant with his mind.

Stacy & Ms. Zhasa , two government officials arrive with their department jeep & an attendant in tow exactly at 8.30 a.m. By 9, Aashant & Mandira are off to Monokha , a village where women self help groups are pretty strong & active. Aashant’s boss wants organic farming to be introduced in the village as a livelihood option. The produce can then be certified by international agencies for marketing to discerning consumers in Europe.

It takes almost an hour to reach out of town & another quarter to take an un-metalled road towards a second hill. After a gruelling 45 minutes of roller coaster ride , the jeep stopped at the entrance of the Monokha village. A SHG meeting is quickly organised at the local community hall which gets slowly filled up by women, young & old along with old men The meeting was inaugurated by a village elder who was in his full costume. Tragopan feathers in head , thick coloured bangles all over etc. etc. A village elder (whether by age or power) is always identified by the hand knit shawl that is flipped over his left shoulder. The meeting was over after some promises made through interlocutors & acceptances from the community elders. Then it was time for inspection of existing farm produces. Pineapple, tamarind, passion-fruits seemed to be full of exciting potential for organic farming. All through this time, Aashant noticed the complete absence of any male adult between the age of 18 to 35.

Were they in the farm? Or have they deserted the place for better opportunities in the plains of India? Aashant had heard about the menace of militancy in this area. Have the youth then gone underground with the militants for a cocktail life of money, booze, arms & power?

Aasant wanted to take a leak and was shown a village pathway among two rows of houses to a secluded corner. Just as he was leaving that pathway, a huge black-skinned animal-head with blood oozing from its neck appeared to be looking straight into his eyes. It took almost a few second for Aashant’s heart to stabilise before he noticed an old man carrying the severed head of a Mithun on his shoulder. Looks like today is also the feast day in the village.
Next stop was to be the village school . The school was far away on a down slope , barely visible from the community hall.
As Mandira hurried downward alone ,she was taking in the scenery of a beautiful valley towards the right side of the road . Almost ten paces behind , Aashant was transfixed as his gaze fell upon her swinging shapely bonbons. For some moments Aashant was overwhelmed by a feeling of discovery of the feminine form in its full glory. To realise that he was accompanying a woman who possessed such form made him feel humble at his inadequacies in spotting it at the first meeting. Aashant spat out the gum that he was chewing & headed downward before he heard that sound again & this time almost from behind his shoulders & very very loud.

Rat-tat-rat-tat-rat-tat rat-tat-rat-tat ………………….

Four men in army uniforms carrying Insas assault rifles were firing in a circle at a fleeing figure of a youth in black uniform . The youth fleeing had a LMG in hand. They all seemed to be hurtling down the bushy hill on the left. The youth was in no mood for a straight combat and he was running as fast as he could.
Looked like the youth was an insurgent.
The firing happened again & Aashant , in a flash , was spread-eagled on the road . Mandira too had noticed the firing and she was running down when suddenly the insurgent caught up with her , held her by the neck & then pulled her down with him , into the valley on the right side.

Everything happened in extra rapid time . The firing has stopped . Aashant along with the army jawans were peeking at the valley down below. It was a bushy downhill with a gradual slope and they could see nothing. Two jawans rushed down the slope while two kept guard asking Aashant about “Mandira”. One of them turned out to be a Colonel leading the pack. Almost fifteen minutes had passed before Aashant could collect himself from the incident & narrated the background of their visit. By this time the two government officials had come down & Aashant was identified. But still no sign of Mandira.
After almost half an hour, the other two jawans were found ambulating back with their rifles slung on the shoulders.
A chill of fear passed through Aashant’s spine.
Where is Mandira? Have they found her ? Dead or alive ?
The jawans walked upto & reported back to the Colonel . The Colonel turned towards Aashant and said that he thinks Mandira has been taken hostage & the next course of action would be to wait for more information on her whereabouts from either the militant or other villagers. It might be a while before the army can launch a ‘search & rescue’ operation . But for that to happen, formalities have to be executed, FIRs lodged etc. etc. And that can only happen in the town that he was staying.

Aashant decided to abandon the SHG visit then and there. He accompanied Stacy & Ms. Zhasa on the government jeep. While on the way back towards the main town, he finished off making his calls to his boss, her colleagues & other administrators in his office. Aashant decided not to call up Mandira’s home before receiving at least some information on her present location. Fifty minutes back she was talking excitedly with Stacy on making passion-fruit squash for the export market from the village. Now she had simply disappeared from among them. For the rest of the journey Aashant was completely quiet. In between he was trying to close Mandira’s handbag, which he had found stuck on a bush, with flaps open. Aashant had noticed the red object peeking through but now he had completely lost interest in that. As the sun quickly set, the only light visible inside the silent jeep was coming from the glowing orange tip of his cigarette in the front seat.

“I don’t even date with smokers”, Mandira had once casually informed him on her attitude towards smokers. Aashant was praying that Mandira was safe. “Forget dating, I’ll celebrate by burning hundred packets of cigarettes just to see you break into your characteristic mirth ,again”, Aashant seemed to be ruminating .

Around 8 p.m, Aashant was lighting up another cigarette at his hotel room. He had taken a quick shower . He was feeling completely fagged out after the gruelling two hour drill at the police station completing formalities and remembering to note down the phone numbers of the OC as well as the Colonel. Stacy was trying to use her departmental connections to ring up the Home Minister but in spite of all efforts , ‘search & rescue’ operation seemed to be postponed for next day morning.

There was still absolutely no information on Mandira. Aashant hoped that the militant would not harm her if he wanted to capitalise on the hostage. Militancy , thought Aashant, is eighty percent of playing cops and daggers, running from one shelter to another before one realises that the youth has been wasted. Who would have hoped that they would get stuck in this?

From his balcony, Aashant saw the valley all lit up & then ,all of a sudden, darkness appeared to engulf the entire town.
Power cut. Load shedding!
Precisely at the same time there was a knock on the room door.
A few moments of silence & another knock, this time louder.
Aashant felt scared , vulnerable & indecisive all at once. Dragging his legs , he gathered enough courage to open the door.

“Hi! I’m back.” cooed Mandira from just outside.

A huge sense of relief overwhelmed Aashant as he spontaneously clasped both her hands, held them tightly & in the same momentum of gratuitousness , Aashant hugged Mandira.
“ I am so glad to see you!”

Aashant lights up a candle & takes Mandira by the hand on to the sofa . The candle lights up a side of Mandira’s face . Aashant prepares a brandy for her as Mandira recounts the story
since her capture upto the release.

Aashant calls up Stacy, his own boss & finally the Colonel and communicates the brief story of her safe return. The Colonel informs Aashant that they can’t leave town before Mandira is debriefed next morning at the police station .

“Go for a wash , I’ll order dinner”, Aashant tells Mandira while handing her the handbag in the candle-lit darkness.

Aashant caringly serves dinner to Mandira in his room , while going over the story of her release once again in detail. The power had come back & suddenly the world seemed bright & hearty to Aashant.

Mandira said she was rolling down the slope towards the valley along with the youth before they hit another small un-metalled road. The youth hitched her up & pushed her from the back with the barrel of his LMG. She immediately started running on the road, guided from behind to take the correct turns through jungles & slopes & other un-metalled roads for almost 40 minutes before they reached a crowded village market on the other side of the hill. In a flash, the militant pushed Manidra inside the crowd shouting “You are free” and ran away towards another downhill. Mandira noticed 3-4 men also running behind him, presumably to collect & hide the weapon ( a fact that Mandira had to remember not to recount in her official story otherwise the village would be traumatised by the onslaught of army interrogations & harassments). But the villagers turned out to be smarter than Mandira thought. Mandira was first calmed down with a mug of local tea & some womanly care. She told her hotel’s name & the purpose of her visit. As she finished her tea, few village elders ushered her into a trekker & then proceeded to blindfold her for her journey back to the hotel. Mandira had to again remember to add the blindfolding part to her story right from the time she started running. That would prevent further police questions on the locations of the village. Anyway after about two hours , the driver of her trekker left her 100 meters away from the hotel and before she could remove the blindfold on her own, the trekker had already sped ahead .

There she was now in front of Aashant, free from captivity!

Aashant recounted his own story with the Colonel & police station although he skipped the discussion with the colonel on the scenario of her “possible death”. He told her not only everyone was worried at the office when they heard the news but also Aashant could hear some colleagues sobbing on the phone.
Mandira looked up at him, her eyes glistening just so slightly.

Will Mandira come back again to this town?

“Why not ? The same thing could have happened to me in Bengaluru”
“Yes, but the probability of such an event in much less in Bengaluru”
“I don’t know. I just want to sleep very well now and leave for home as soon as possible.”

Can Aashant manage to skip the debriefing session tomorrow at the Police station?

“ I am not sure, how”
“ Let us leave a letter for the police stating what happened. And then we can always have a talk later on the phone or even on video on internet1”
“ I doubt whether these guys will agree. The best thing would be to slip out of town catching the early morning flight to Delhi! Once we reach Delhi, I’ll speak to the Colonel” opined Aashant.

“Okay,” cooed Mandira as she fiddled with the hook of her handbag and shoved two of her fingers in.

Out popped the mysterious red object held between her two fingers.
It was a strip of sleeping pills.

Mandira tore three red pills out of the strip & popped them straight in her mouth while helping herself with the water jug kept on Aashant’s bedside stool.

“Zolam does come handy, once in a while”, smiled Mandira all the while teasingly looking at Aashant to hint him that she had already read Aashant’s mind as to what he thought
the red object was. As they bid “good night” with promises to be up at 4.00 a.m. , Aashant had mixed feelings.
The shame of being caught for fantasising on the red object as well as the elation of being that much closer to her for knowing that she was as much as an insomniac as he was.
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This is a story written by Salty is completely fictional. Any resemblance to actual person is only coincidental. The copyright belongs to Salty & is protected. For permission to reproduce, please send an email.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Can MSDhoni carve out his destiny? A viewer's review of the India Australia ODI series 2009

Cricket viewers have been so ODed over past 12 weeks with a glut of T20 & ODI matches that one wonders whether the cricketers themselves are really looking forward to the 7 match (yawn!) ODI (& more yawn!) series between India & Australia starting tomorrow. For them both tiredness & fitness will be real issues to be dealt with during the course of the series.

Fortunately most of the Indian cricketers do not really suffer from the problem of tiredness as they had little opportunity to sweat; after being knocked out of the Champions trophy in South Africa by a fighting Pakistani team. Even the T20 Champions League saw mostly Sehwag & Gambhir getting limited time to swing their bats around since none of the IPL teams succeeded enough to qualify for the semis. So , the problem of sustenance will be on the Aussies although ironically India starts with a news of injuries hitting Yuvraj Singh & Dhoni during the practice sessions.

However, the Aussies are riding high on excellent current forms of Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Bret Lee , Mitchell Johnson & Shaun Marsh who are expected to carry the momentum forward overcoming Indian conditions of heat,dust & spin magic on slow pitches.

Both the captains Dhoni & Ponting sounded 'jaded' initially, trying not to sound "indifferent" to 'one more' series but have now followed up with lots of sound bytes of bravado. Dhoni reassures that fitness is not an issue & should not be confused with accidental injuries in "intense" practice sessions & unlike in 3 or 5 match series , here they will have to play well in all the matches instead of focusing on the first few.

Ponting , on the other hand, thinks that absence of fielding & bowling coaches have put India on the back foot at the start & just like his team mates Ponting is planning to hit success in the first few matches.

It remains to be seen whether India can come back good in the later part of the series. Experts including Ian Chappel think that fielding for India may again be the Achilles heel.

MS Dhoni's debut in ODI captaincy occurred in 2007 during the last series at home between India & Australia when Dravid had stepped down from captaincy at the end of the England tour. In that series India lost 2-4. Although Dhoni covered it up by a brilliant win during the 3 nation CB series in Australia in 2008, a series win at home would herald his 3rd year in captaincy with the right amount of positive energy. Dhoni's record in captaincy has surely been above average & the results in this series will indicate whether he has the mettle to overtake Sourav "Dada" Ganguly's record or for that matter even Azhar's run of successes in the nineties. (Its a pleasure, by the way, to see Sourav quickly fit into the role of a sharp analyst. The content of Sourav's analysis is focused on purely cricketing matters although the style remains aggressive & more so now.) Sourav like Gavaskar thinks the series could be decided 4-3 in India's favour & with some luck it can even be 5-2. Dada's advice to Dhoni is not to waste his 'explosive strokeplay' by batting lower than the 5th position. It remains to be seen whether Dhoni can light up the 'worn-out' series with a superlative display of batting & captaincy skills to match the bristling form of the Aussies. Hopefully a fit & fresh Tendulkar can support Dhoni with a vintage performance to cherish in his 20th year of international cricket. Notwithstanding the high expectations from the fiery Sehwag ; if Dhoni fails in this series, Sehwag may jump to be the front runner to Indian captaincy just-in-time for the 2011 World Cup preparations.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Indian Not-For-Profit Foundation striving for excellence in sports

India's only gold medal win in the Olympics came in 2008 amidst a realisation that though little but very slowly, this third-world democracy (with 1.1 billion mouths to feed) has made some progress over 112 years of the Olympic movement.

Much remains to be done in lots of areas. Professionalism in sports federations; finding, nurturing & funding world-class talent to excellence in sports; zero tolerance to domination of power-hungry sports administrators; finding sponsors; building relevant & focussed infrastructure; compulsory induction of culture of sports among school children etc etc.

While cricket, introduced in India by the erstwhile colonial masters from Great Britain, continues to hog the attention & passion of most Indians; the fact remains that it is still played by only 8 countries in the international level while other sports lie in neglect merely because the commercial sponsors do not see any benefit in attracting eyeballs or attention from associating their name to such events.

In order to leapfrog India's populace's interest both as viewers as well as participants, surely what India needs is some more Gold medals in Olympics in disciplines like athletics, shooting ,boxing, wrestling where traditionally Indians have done better.

To bridge this gap, a not-for-profit foundation, has been set up with an apt name like Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ in short) whose motto is to give that extra push in terms of funding & training to the world-class Indian talents so that they don't fall short of the ultimate excellence in sports, the Olympic Gold.

In a country where issues like poverty & mass livelihood dominate all discussions, world-class sporting talents often are the victims of the mass mediocrity that kill all ambitions & funding to nurture such talents towards excellence.

The two men behind this foundation have impressive sporting credentials of their own. Geet Sethi is a eight time World champion in Billiards while Prakash Padukone was the All England champion in Badminton. Some of the other Directors include Niraj Bajaj, who is an industrialist & also an ex-National Table Tennis Champion; Ramaraj a renowned techie entrepreneur & a Venture Capitalist & surprisingly a couple of investment bankers. The advisory board has members like PT Usha , the sprint queen of India as well as notable figures from the sports media. The icing on the cake is the COO, Viren Rasquinha, an ex-captain of the Indian hockey team who followed up his sporting career with an MBA in marketing & strategy from ISB, Hyderabad (a business school ranked 15th in thw world).

If relevant credentials in sports or management were not enough, what separates this NFP from countless others, is their declaration that they would like to be evangelists in spreading this movement across sports-passionate Indians all over the globe. And the contributions from Indians to OGQ will be spent 100% after the sportsmen only. No leakage towards administration or other expenses.




OGQ is a not-for-profit foundation that has in one stroke covered professionalism with integrity & accountability and looks to be a sure shot model for success.

Here's wishing them all the best.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What kind of Philosopher are you?


Amartya Sen, the Nobel prize winning Economist cum philosopher from Bengal, posed an interesting riddle while launching in Kolkata his new book, "The idea of Justice".

It goes like this:

Three kids are fighting over a flute in the house. The first one feels he should get it as he is the only one who can play the flute. The second one thinks he is the poorest of the three, possessing no toys unlike the other two & so he should get the first preference for the flute. The third one says that he toiled for a week to make the flute & now that it is nearing completion he finds it unjust that the other two are staking claim to the flute.
The poser is, which of the three kids deserve the flute?

According to Sen, this is a philosophical question & hence the answer to this would depend on the philosophy of justice that one has faith in meaning thereby that all answers are correct depending on the type of philosopher you are.

Hence , if you have made the mental choice of giving the flute to a specific kid, then get a glimpse of the brand of philosopher you are by moving to the following relevant descriptions under the kid of your choice.

Your choice is Kid number 1:

If you are a Welfare oriented philosopher you would choose the first kid. Your brand of justice is based on welfare /utilitarian based principles of justice. You think that the distribution that gives maximum satisfaction to the preferences of individuals in a group { sum of (preference satisfactions of each multiplied by the intensity of preference of each )} should be selected. In simpler words, the most talented should get the scarce resource even if that means starving the rest , who are less talented. In that way, the society is a net gainer of preference satisfactions.

Your choice is Kid number 2:

You would be a believer in reduction of Inequity . You have faith in Difference based principles whereby you subscribe to the theory that given strict equality of rights, liberties & opportunities the best distributive justice is one that maximises the absolute benefit to the least advantaged member in the society. This means you expect & accept the presence of inequity in income (as more productive people will earn more income in an equal opportunity society) as long as that raises the absolute benefit to the poorest.

Your choice is Kid number 3:

You are a Libertarian & also believe in just deserts. The desert based principle of distributive justice states that people should be rewarded for the effort they undertake & the contribution that they make to the social product of raising the standard of living of society in general. It also means that any acquisition following the principles of just exchange or transfer should not leave the original holder worse off than he was before. In simpler terms, if you toiled hard to add value to a product, then your claim to the ownership of the product is just. You may also be rewarded by other means like income & but your reward will be more than the others who have not added value.

(For a comprehensive & abridged guide to these principles, I found this link in Stanford encyclopedia useful.)

I am not sure whether Amartya Sen intentionally posed this philosophical riddle to aid in the marketing of his book but for sure I'm intrigued enough to get hold of one copy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Indian soccer : Top rank in politics


Almost 2 decades ago, I recall a resigned comment made by Prasun Bannerjee, ex-captain of Indian soccer team, on the popularity of soccer in India. Prasun said that if Sunil Gavaskar decides to walk any street in India, he will immediately be mobbed by 100 fans while Prasun will get none for doing the same act. I was a witness to such a situation around popular soccer stars in the late seventies, when some of us friends suddenly chanced upon Jamshid Nassiri (of the famed Majid-Jamshid pair from Iran who dominated Kolkata club football during those days) in front of New Market loitering alone. We struck up a casual conversation with him lasting for more than ten minutes with hardly any passerby showing any interest. Jamshid was sporting enough to answer our juvenile questions on football, Majid & other topics & even signed our autograph books. Finally when we departed , we saw him hail a cab and carry on with his solitary journey.

In 2009, probably the same reaction from fans holds true for MS Dhoni while Baichung Bhutia may get 10 fans instead of 100. And that's possibly because of the fact that the glut of telly channels have made his face well-known. Even a good looking news caster from the telly channel may get the same number of curious fans around her.


The cause for this indifference to soccer in India is not hard to find. While India ranks among the top three in World Cricket, she ranks 144 in the soccer world. The fact that only 8 countries play top class cricket does not seem to deter the hero worship from adulating fans.

Hence when soccer news gets the headlines in the print media, its always for the wrong reasons.
The latest wrong reason is the mess created around the suspension of 32 year old Indian captain & ,superstar Baichung Bhutia from the Mohunbagan football club (MFC) of Kolkata.Baichung apparently got the punishment for not turning up for practice for a few days as he had other professional commitments to keep. But he made sure that he had kept the coach informed. The club officials , incensed by such "insubordination" , sent Baichung a show cause notice. Baichung, well known among his fans for his career-long commitment to the sport & the employer, his humility & polite behaviour, was so stunned by this "ungrateful" reaction from MFC that he called a press conference and announced that he will no longer play for MFC.

This press conference got the MFC going. Managed by officials that include among others lawyers, politicians, corporate chieftains & businessmen of repute in the "Bhodrolok" society of Kolkata; MFC opined that no individual is bigger than a glorious century old institution like MFC & hence Baichung must get the stick & suspension order followed. For a soccer fan, nothing was more outrageous than such an action as
  1. It debars a player from earning his livelihood. Imagine a CEO being suspended for missing a couple of days in office .
  2. The punishment is out of proportion with the apparent folly of the player. Fining him monetarily could have been the best option as he had reneged on his contractual terms.
  3. It seemingly makes Baichung a bonded slave of MFC since he had repeatedly said that he has lost all interest in playing anymore for MFC.
  4. The fans care a fig for the so called tradition of the club. In the hundred plus years of its existence, MFC could not even bag a single trophy in club championships of international repute . MFC , like other soccer clubs of Kolkata , continue to play third rate, insipid & slow paced soccer that makes even Nepalese clubs yawn in boredom.
Now the Baichung matter has been pushed up to the AIFF, the top soccer body of India, for their arbitration. It is expected that AIFF will spend an enormous time in their disposal to complicate matters further & possibly not take a decision at all till six months pass away naturally.

It is another matter that while AIFF has been a super failure in raising the standards of Indian soccer in the last two decades; English & German clubs like Man U, Bayern, Arsenal have started setting up joint ventures with local football academies in India. Very very large scale commercialisation of soccer in Indian clubs probably remain the only option for roping in talent & interest for enhancing standards just like what the BCCI, the Indian cricket board did for cricket in India in the last decade.

In the meanwhile, it will do a lot of good to restore the dignity of the post of Indian soccer captain among international observers & allow Baichung Bhutia to enthrall his fans with his magical soccer skills .

Monday, July 6, 2009

The World wows & bows to a Champion sportsman.


15 Grand slams victories.
A win in each of the slams.
World no. 1 ranking for the longest time period .
The Greatest Lawn Tennis player ever born.

Roger Federer, in his 7th straight Wimbledon final, today defeated a fighting Andy Roddick 5-7,7-6,7-6,3-6 & 16-14 to reach a pinnacle that no body has ever reached before in the history of Lawn Tennis.
Just Wow!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Indian Media is a joke

The Election Commission(EC) has denied charges of malfunctioning of EVMs as reported in here.

EC has also debunked claims by a news report that an enquiry has been ordered or that a demonstration of malfunctioning has been made. Apparently the EVMs have a "possibility of malfunctioning" if another software is burned into the chip. EC claims that its ASIC is tamper proof.

Besides laying to rest speculations about EVM's health, EC's claim indicates that Rediff had actually published a motivated story to take the nation for a ride on a very serious issue concerning the fundamental structures of India's democracy. Rediff's unethical report leaves Indian readers as miffed as they were 4 decades back when propaganda disguised as news was mostly organised by the Government controlled media channels. It appears that the glut of private channels has not changed the situation even now as each of these private media outfits seem to be either toeing the line of some other political party (in this case, BJP)or merely write any junk to achieve TRP ratings or hits among gullible readers.

The Truth however Rests in Peace somewhere in between.

The Indian media like any other industry merely gives employment to its reporters while professionalism & ethics continue to be tarnished in the typical " India-me sob cholta hai" way.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Voting machine on the wall, who's the best candidate of all?


If you have coded my chip,
then the vote is for you to keep.
Even an idiot can contest
And I will proudly attest
That the idiot has won the seat
Even though he is a cheat.

Prove to the people, press & the media
That you have not tampered like a mafia
The silicon implants in my body & breast
And for once & all; allow matters to rest.

-------------

Written with inspiration from this news article in rediff.com.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bravo & a catch win Windies the match.


Bravo continued from where he left off against the Lankans in the qualifying group match. After scalping 4 wickets in India's paltry innings of 153, Bravo took on the mantle from Gayle to carry West Indies to a superb victory over India with 8 balls to spare. Bravo's innings of 66 n.o was a mix of aggression & caution with the balance between the two changing seamlessly over the game's progress. His winning stroke was a sweetly timed sixer over long off that the bowler Zaheer could only watch in despair.
Bravo, indeed!
But what I think changed the game in favour of West Indies was the 'knocking-off'  of Indian top order of Rohit Sharma, Gambhir & Suresh Raina. All the three big hitters were back in the pavilion when India's total was just 29. The defining moment of this shift of balance was when Simmons took a marvellous catch running back for 20 odd yards to send Gambhir back.  Immediately an image of Kapil running behind to catch  out Viv Richards in 1983 WC final, at the same ground, flashes in the now overloaded mind. 
What a catch! Surely that won the match. This one and the one caught 26 years back.
What do India do from here on ? One is they can hope that even in the absence of Sehwag, the top three batsmen will find form to put up a challenging  score , which  the mighty South Africans or the unpredictable English  side will find difficult to defend.
Or they can take a do/die attitude and get Irfan Pathan to open with Gambhir with Rohit coming in one down position followed by Yusuf Pathan, Raina & then Dhoni. It was surprising to see Irfan Pathan not get his full quota of 4 overs from Dhoni ; while Ishant's & Zaheer's over pitched lollies were getting pounded.  
In the end, the team that deserved, won the match. There's only one word that one can repeat in such a situation.
Bravo.
    
Photo Source : Cricinfo.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Confusing,illogical & possibly unfair laws on display in T20 World Cup 2009

T20 World Cup second edition that is underway in England has already thrown up a couple of interesting laws that appear more confusing than convincing.

  1. The top two seeded teams are allocated slots in the Super Eight stage regardless of where they finish in their group. The Super Eight stage is not determined on winners and runners-up. This means that if the seeded teams qualify in their group, then they take the predetermined positions in the super eight Stage. Since India has already qualified , the results of their match, currently underway against Ireland, will not shift India's position in Group E . The abiding reason as per the Cricinfo website is to ensure supporters who buy Super Eight tickets can be assured of knowing who they will be watching - assuming their team qualifies! What nonsense! Seeding a team is based on past performances and proves helpful while drawing lots for the qualifying group. But once the qualifying groups and teams have been drawn up ; fairness of the game demands that the present performances in the qualifying matches should dictate the positions in the Super Eight stage groups & not seeding.
  2. There was an interesting situation in the Sri Lanka Vs. West Indies qualifying match today; when Sarwan had smashed a Mendis delivery to the long-on boundary. Mathews took a great overhead catch, the momentum taking him over the line. Mathews throws the ball up in the air before crossing the rope, the ball also crosses the boundary but it is in the air. Mathews is behind the rope but he jumps to slap the airborne ball back into play. The ball goes inside the ropes , still airborne, but doesn't cross the rope after that, and after an eternity of replays it is decided that will be only be three runs (run by the batsmen) & not a six. So although both the ball and the fielder had crossed the boundary rope but were not grounded during the time of contact , it was not declared a six. Clause 19 (3) of the laws of cricket defines this position of 'grounding' clearly. However, to a spectator, the situation above appears starkly unfair as the fielder & the ball are clearly shown to be outside the vertical plane of the boundary line when the contact was made to get the ball back into the field of play. If the boundary line is the definitive limit of a cricket field then then 'grounding' clause do appear limiting & unfair.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Aila , the one-eyed pirate from the Bay of Bengal.

The local met department has been sounding an alert about an impending cyclone since last 2 days. As usual such alerts fall on deaf ears not only because they lack the precision of accurate forecasts of landing time & ferocity but also because 99% of such cyclones originating from the Bay of Bengal normally change their courses,at the last minute, to strike neighbouring Bangaldesh.

This time however the cyclone 'Aila' lashed through the coast of West Bengal & wreaked havoc on 24Parganas,Howrah,Hoogly, Nadia & Murshidabad districts. These incidentally are the same districts that routed the ruling left front government out of the Parliament in New Delhi in the recent Loksabha elections. While religion-minded communists (these are special breeds found only in Bengal) believe that it is God's vengeance on the anti-communists; the ever-sensational opposition leader used her new-found maturity to restrain herself from terming Aila a Chinese conspiracy.

Aila left 21 people dead in its trail out of which 7 died in Kolkata in freakish accidents that only a natural fury can cause. A 37 year old man, taking his ailing mother for a check-up, tragically died when a tree fell on the autorickshaw he was travelling in. An iron post fell on another hapless pedestrian, killing him, while he was running for cover amidst 100 kph strong gushing wind & rain. A broken window pane flew out of a building & gashed the chest of a 50 year old woman. Kolkata Police,in a novel way, send an SMS alert to citizens asking them to be indoors. But like the proverbial horse that bolted through the open stable door, the SMS reached at 7.45 p.m,almost 3 hours after the Aila had weakened and passed over. Information was scant & sketchy on all media. The cable was out, torn to shreds, by falling branches. Websites of met department or other weather channels, displayed information that was at least 5 hours old, leaving one in a helpless state of mind.A bummer was heard mumbling , "'Aila' aila naki gaila noboddy koila!"

A 35 year old tree in front of my house crashed its biggest maze of branches on the road, blocking it completely from traffic. Another big one (see picture) still hangs precariously on its trunk. Streets littered with tree trunks & branches reminded one of the recent tactics used by a section of tribals in Lalgarh to prevent the state police from entering their area. 'Tree felling' incidentally finds its mention as a suitable anti-adminsitration confrontational tactic , in the history books. Some have 'credited' the freedom fighter Matangoni Hazra (from Medinipur)of using such measures to disrupt the administration of the colonial British rulers, nearly 70 years back. What,of course, never finds a mention in the national dailies is the fact that in the tribal areas of West Medinipur, 'Tree Felling' has been used frequently by highway tribal-dacoits to waylay, rob & murder unsuspecting travellers for years together. Am sure that the same elements are now used by political parties of all hues to score their brownie points in Bengal. So much for our fighters!

But Aila was no ordinary robber. She was more like an one-eyed pirate who rose from the sea and gushed ferociously over the land of South Bengal destroying rural & urban vegetation & structures at will and bringing to a near total shutdown all forms of traffice (road,rail or bus)for over 4-5 hours. While it passed, I attempted to capture it on my cellphone video. For all those who want to experience the roar of Aila, heres a clip below. To be played in full volume,
video

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gili gili gili hocus pocus


50 runs in 17 balls and 85 in 35. That's a measure of the pace with which Adam Gilchrist batted to push out Sehwag's Daredevils in the semifinals of IPL'09.
Once again , not for the last time though, Gilchrist showed in his blistering innings of 45 minutes that in the world of cricket, there has never been a better & more consistent entertainer than him. On all of Gilli's days, even the greatest Bollywood entertainers appear ordinary.
Deccan now faces the winner of Chennai & Bangalore on this Sunday. The final would be worth watching just only for another of Gilli's hard hitting innings.
As IPL'09 comes to a close in South Africa amidst half-empty stands, one can't help but recall the old saying, "The more things change (from Test to T20), the more he (Gilchrist) remains the same".
Adam Gilchrist, for sure, is the topmost brand of IPL and thankfully so considering that at the start of the tournament; one of the Bollywood entertainers-cum-franchisee owners was using his PR skills to wrongfully credit the top spot to himself.
Photo Source : Cricinfo.com

Sunday, May 10, 2009

10 symbiotic pairs to explain the world




Order & Chaos
Man & Woman
Rationale & Emotion
Linearity & Error
Deterministic & indeterminable
Rightist & Leftist
Global North & Global South
Body & Mind
Rich & Poor
Time & Space.

Infinity


A human being is just a small dot of finite dimension floating in an unfathomably infinite & empty space. Within this finite dot, inside a human being there exists an infinity which is again unfathomable. Its the human mind.

Why am I here?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

7 myths about private b-schools in India

If you are an employable graduate but do not see any job opportunities coming your way, will you go ahead and do an MBA?
In 2009, thanks to proliferation of unregulated b-schools all over India; an ordinary graduate need not be disheartened for not getting through the popular IIMs. He/she can as well do the MBA in fifty more 'going-concern' type private business schools that adorn the middle spectrum .
But will he get a job of his/her liking at the end of the course?
Looking at the recessionary trend, one is not very hopeful as yet. But for some , who can afford, it may be a good idea to be engaged with value-additive activities like professional education. Hence if you are looking at private business schools as an engagement option, you probably need to increase your level of awareness about the myths that surround private b-schools in India. .

  1. Myth : Private b-schools are easy to get admission to , if you have the merit. If one doesn't have the necessary means ( 7 - 10 lakhs for a 2 year course), then it is a very difficult proposition. Here , 'means' is the necessary condition, 'merit' is the sufficient one. Almost all of them demand around 10-15% of the total fees even before the actual admission. Its what they call the 'seat-reservation' fee. For sure, the amount in majority of cases is non-refundable.
  2. Myth : Education loans at low rates are easily available from banks. Banks , more than the students, look at the prospective placement scenario of the b-school. In 2009, nearly all the top-100 private business schools have a placement record of only 50-60% and the trend is still looking down. With such a figure, banks will be more prudent in doling out loans to all and sundry like they did 3 years back.
  3. Myth : Scholarships are easy to get in b-schools. That's only if one tops the batch but for the rest of the batch (which in some b-schools are in 1000s) , scholarship is a mirage that they have been chasing , if at all, right from their school days.
  4. Myth : Quality of Intellectual Capital in private b-schools is very high. Although ranking survey of private agencies often throw up some private schools at a higher position than even the IIMs; the truth is private b-schools have mediocre quality of publications coming most often from mediocre & confused faculty members. Some larger b-schools have effectively outsmarted the ranking system by churning out their own magazines & journals which are filled up with pages of gibberish read only by the author & cited by none.
  5. Myth : Examination & grading system in private b-schools are easy on the students. Just because one has paid through one's nose for the course does not imply a grade card full of As. In fact, the reality is just the opposite. Private b-schools compensate for their poor quality of intellectual capital by directing extra effort for creation of a rigid grading system. Often, grades are used as a filter during the placement season.
  6. Myth : High industry-academia interaction in private b-schools lead to industry-tuned course material. Even one percent of faculty are not engaged in consultancy assignments from the industry. The only interaction that happens when the b-schools spend a fortune holding a seminar in their premises debating themes with common jargon randomly placed. Seminars are like day outs. Lots of sound bytes, good food, networking , publications of proceedings and promptly forgotten the next day.
  7. Myth : One can pursue higher education abroad after receiving MBA degree from private b-schools. Majority of A & B grade universities in North America or Europe do not recognise the degree/diploma of most of the private Indian b-schools as the process is not certified by either Indian regulatory bodies like AICTE and/or international certification agency like the AACSB.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The old gives way to the new :IPL2009




When Rajasthan Royals pipped past Kolkata Knight Riders via a super over tiebreaker, Sourav 'Dada' Ganguly walked back to the dugout looking forlorn & dejected. In spite of Dada's super knock of 46, his dismissal in the penultimate ball of debutant Kamran Khan's last over vindicated the cricket fans' belief that Dada's knock was good but not good enough to win the match. On the other hand , Kamran Khan's furious pace bowling has brought in a refreshing breath of fresh air to Indian cricket.

Photo Source : Cricinfo

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Resurrection and Romance in the revealing ads of IPL2 DAY1

Vodafone started the IPL second season with a couple of fantastic new ads. One of the latter, depicts a Jinda Laash(meaning zombie) on a charpai ( a bed for carrying the dead) jiving his way to be the STAR of the match while the credited players stand forlorn on the side. While the objective of the ad was possibly to hint that the common man can be the STAR without hurling a ball or a bat (he has to just send a SMS ); the inaugural matches of IPL second season actually threw out senior Indian players ( including one retired) as STARS of the day. Of course , this is not to ever say that either of Tendulkar, Dravid or Kumble is being called a zombie but probably the analogy is acceptable in a format of the game tailor-made for the young, talented & the energetic.
Tendulkar made 59 batting through and had right-arm slinger Malinga backing up Mumbai Indian's winning total of 160. Dravid, partnering Petersen, epitomised 'Casablanca-in-a-sinking-ship' when his 66 helped Royal Challengers bounce back from 0/2 to a score of 133 . Kumble then bowled out Warnie's Rajasthan Royals with a figure of 5/5.
Airtel reused Vidya-Madhvan onscreen chemistry to preach in its new ad that romance survives even deep meltdowns. Almost mimicking the storyboard, a visual of Geoffrey Boycott closeted with Shilpa Shetty in the sponsors' box popped out on the telly and it didn't take long to figure out that the meltdown has hit hard Shilpa, the owner of Rajasthan Royals whose paltry score of 58 measured up to her budget.
Castrol's ad appeared like a mediocre exercise of an art workshop in a science school. The game of Chennai Kings without Murli/Morkel would probably fall in the same category. Abhishek Nayar's quick-fire 35 for Mumbai Indians was a reminder of the old ad of Havels. The wonder boy of a wide-eyed mother made sure his knock put his side up by a game on the first day.
Three of the famous five of recent Indian Cricket came good today. Wonder what would Ganguly and Laxman , the balance two, have to show on the second day when they face each other?

I shall look out for the telling signs in the ads again.

Photo Source :Cricinfo

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Coalition Jam of the Indian Parliament


As India heads for its fifteenth general election to the Lok Sabha, the media channels are clogged with numbers that the two major political alliances can cobble together as part of the 543 seats in the lower house of Indian parliament. The third front looms in the background as the balancing factor in a fragmented house that in all probability will be run by a coalition government representing a mix of "fundamental" interests of caste, religion & lingual communities.

Possibly the chances of a clear majority for any of the two biggies can increase if the number of seats is increased. In spite of the Delimitation Commission's exercises to change territorial constituencies, the number of seats since 1951 has increased by only 10% (489 to 543 in 2009) while the total population has increased by 200% (from 360 million in 1951 to 1.03 billion in 2001) .


Population growth alone should justify an increase of at least 50% to 800 seats. Further , remotely located and under developed geographical areas such as the North-Eastern states should get more reserved seats . Some tribal NE states like Nagaland & Mizoram continue to get just one seat when the requirements of the populace demand more. And maybe an additional dimension of unifying interest like "development" can be added by making larger tax paying states get a larger proportion of the incremental seats.


Overall a Lok Sabha of 825 to 850 seats will probably be more representative of the true character of Indian polity. This could then break the "coalition jam " that India seems to be locked in since 1996.

Cartoon Source : Ninan's World, Times of India.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

IIT students turn vandals


IIT Kharagpur, which houses 9000 students & another 1000 odd faculty & administration staff in the 600 acre campus, has only one hospital catering to this huge population. Today the hospital was accused of death caused by negligence of a 3rd year student of electrical engineering, Rohit Kumar. Late night news reports suggest that around 2000 students initially gheraoed the Director, vandalised his residence & car and then finally forced him to fax his letter of resignation to the Board of Directors.

The BC Roy technology hospital is a 10 bed hospital having neither qualified doctors nor quality medical equipments to deal with moderate illness leave alone an emergency. The funny part is this has been the tradition for the last 4 decades. The students, faculty as well as administration know this and hence will never take an emergency patient to BC Roy hospital. I have witnessed this in person during my student days. Once I had dislocated three fingers on my right leg and was referred to the Railway Hospital in Kharagpur for a routine resetting procedure after spending 2 nights in the hospital doing nothing. Second time was more serious. A case of suspected hepatitis was treated by the doctors for 4 days with painkillers till I got scared enough to rush to Kolkata for diagnosis & treatment. There are numerous scary stories about the hospital and typically the faculty & the staff prefer to take their critical cases to the Kharagpur district hospital or move closer to Medinipur town or slightly further to Kolkata. Hence it is kind of strange that the fellow students failed to rush Rohit straight to Medinipur earlier. Probably his life could have been saved.

As for vandalism at the Director's residence, I am disturbed that the virus of mob violence has reached the precincts of this largely peaceful campus. Having said that, I must also say that the apathy of the IIT administration to students' demand for basic facilities ,during my time, was to be seen to be believed. At times of crisis, it was difficult to find any helping hand either from the administration or from the faculty and the students largely had to rely on their own network to deal with any crisis,be it a perennial water shortage or mess workers' strikes before the examination or taking a critically ill student to the hospital. The situation still remains the same.

But why did students have to resort to vandalism is going beyond me? And this is not because there is no cause for serious grievance but because the IIT students ,by and large, were not of those 'type.'

Sadly, Rohit Kumar's tragic death and the disturbance thereafter will change the perception of lots of people including myself about the changed character of the student population inside IIT Kharagpur.

Photo Source : Ambuj Saxena on Flckr

10 pros & cons of holding IPL in a foreign land.

If the Indian Premier League as announced today is held in a foreign country like South Africa or England, what will be gains & losses for the Indian television viewers? I could think of 5 such pairs.

Pros:
  1. A pollution free environment will enhance clarity of broadcasting .
  2. Pitches will be livelier making for a better match.
  3. Cheerleaders can wear sexier dresses .
  4. All the 'foreign (non-Indian)' players will probably be seen in action as security will be a less of a concern.
  5. Local Indian media including newspapers & television channels will devote their time & space to newsworthy events other than IPL.

Cons :

  1. One will have to strain the neck to watch matches in-between a glut of ads as Indian advertisers will squeeze out every opportunity to beam their commercials on hapless viewers in India while foreign advertisers will also try to showcase their unknown products in the same time.
  2. The restriction of 'foreign' players ( 4 per team) in the domestic teams will assume farcical meaning as Pietersen playing for Bengaluru Royal Challengers will be termed as a foreigner even though the match is played in England .
  3. The concept of 'home' and 'away' matches will now be termed as 'adopted home' & 'adopted away' matches thus adding to the confusion.
  4. It might be distressing to watch Kallis warming the reserve bench in his home ground while Robin Utthappa gets to swing his bat in South Africa.
  5. It might even be more distressing to see an impassioned 'foreign' crowd not erupting in a roar as their adopted team hits a sixer/takes a wicket/wins a match in the 'adopted home' ground.

Can you add some more ?

IPL second edition leaves Indian fans high & dry.

BCCI's decision of moving the second edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) out of India is amusing to say the least. South Africa & England are the apparent front runners for this money-spinning cricket league. The franchisee owners appear to be in tune with the decision . The plan is to have 8 cities in the new country adopt eight local teams of IPL. Lalit Modi, the bespectacled chief of IPL, thinks that this move is nothing more than holding a domestic tournament on international soil.
What a farce !! Just imagine a team like Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will be adopted by say Manchester or Durban where 'adopted' fans will dance to the tune of the Bengali theme song "Jeetbo re" of KKR. The stadium will probably be occupied by expatriate Indians and other fans of cricket, if at all.
But then, who cares for the demography of fans in the stadium as long as television viewership does not drop? And just to ensure the viewership in India, all the 59 matches will be played as per the original schedule at 4 p.m and/or 8 p.m IST. Hence , broadcasters are also in tune with the decision.
Hey what about promotion of T20 cricket in India? What about encouraging local club players to watch the matches on the Indian grounds ? That surely does not seem to be the objective of IPL organisers who think that as long as the network of "television broadcasters" "advertisers " & " franchisee owners" are satisfied that they can make money , everything is fine. Even if that means holding a domestic tournament in Honolulu.
Surely the organisers of IPL are trying to be one-up on the Indian political establishment who had asked for change of dates of the IPL tournament . The Indian government was apprehensive of providing paramilitary forces as they would be busy covering the general elections in the country due to be held during the same time period.
In this battle between big business & politics, it will be Indian viewers who will have to pay the price of missing live action of T20 cricket on the Indian grounds.

Friday, March 20, 2009

100 cans of Saltease Fizz


Summer time is here in India, the land of heat and dust. As the established beverage companies fight it out in the market place, I decided to launch my own beverage which will not only quench your thirst but also make you ready for pissing off on anything or anyone that irritates you seriously.

Its called 'Saltease Fizz'. Its a cool beverage with lots of flavoured salt in it . The idea is to get your blood pressure high and your fuse short as the beverage cools its way down your throat into your disgusting gut.


For starters , I am giving 100 cans free. Write to me to get your free can.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

True Love does not exist.

Heres a nice story that popped out of a friend's email:
A young man called Ramaswami died an untimely death. His parents, wife and nine year old son were crying bitterly, sitting next to his dead body. They all happened to be disciples of a holy man whom they called 'Maharaj Ji'. When Maharaj Ji learnt that Ramaswami had died, he came to visit the family. He entered the house and found the family wailing inconsolably. Seeing Maharaj Ji, the wife started crying even louder. She sobbed saying, "Maharaj Ji, he has died too early, he was so young. Oh! I would do anything to make him alive again. What will happen to our son? I am so helpless and miserable." Maharaj Ji tried to pacify the crying lady and the old parents, but the loss was too much for them to come to terms with so easily. Eventually, Maharaj Ji said, "Alright, get me a glass of water." Maharaj Ji sat near the dead body and put the glass next to it. He said, "Now, who ever wants that Ramaswami should become alive again may drink this water. Ramaswami shall come back to life, but the person who drinks the water shall die!"
Silence!
"Come, did you not say that Ramaswami was the sole breadwinner of the family? Who would die instead of him? It is a case of fair exchange, isn't it?" The wife looked at the old mother and the old mother looked at the wife. The old father looked at Ramaswami's son. But no one came forward.
Then Maharaj Ji said to the old father, "Babuji, wouldn't you give your life for your son?" The old man said, "Well, I have my responsibility towards my wife. If I die who will look after her? I cannot offer my life to you."
Maharaj Ji looked questioningly at the old woman and said, "Amma?" She said, "My daughter is due to deliver her first baby. She will be coming to stay for a month. If I die who will look after her and the newborn. Why don't you ask Ramaswami's wife?"
Maharaj Ji smiled and looked at the young widow. She widened her tear filled eyes and said, "Maharaj Ji, I need to live for my son. If I die, who will look after him? He needs me. Please don't ask me to do this." Maharaj Ji asked the son, "Well little boy, would you like to give your life for your father?" Before the boy could say anything, his mother pulled him to her breast and said, "Maharaj Ji, are you insane? My son is only nine. He has not yet lived his life. How could you even think of such a thing?"
Maharaj Ji said, "Well it seems, that all of you are very much needed for the things you need to do in this world. It seems Ramaswami was the only one that could be spared. That is why destiny chose to take him away. So shall we proceed with his last rites? It's getting late."
Having said that, Maharaj Ji got up and left.

Moral of the story : Love lasts as long as life exists.
Hmm...,.
The magic of life is the living's evolved instinct for survival. Put any person in a situation that forces him/her to trade his/her life for somebody else's , the first instinct will be to deny one's own. Its probably a primate instinct that has left its unwashable strain on our genes. The survival instinct is a very basic form of self-interest. The latter lasts as long as ......you got it.....life lasts. Where's "self" without life?
Hence, the moral of the story should probably read as: Self interest lasts as long as life lasts.
Now we have two morals for the same story and both are accurate implying that the two words "Self-interest" & "Love" are substitutable. Possibly, at a philosophical level they are synonyms. They mean the same. If that'd be the case, then one can safely conclude that "True Love"(a state of unconditional love) does not exist.

India tour to NewZealand- A curtain raiser

Moving onto their eighth tour to New Zealand in last forty years, the Indian cricket team appears confident while showing off their new deep-blue jersey on the modelling ramp. While confident talk is one thing, performance on the field is different.

A glance at India's performance in the last seven tours reveal that India has won only 4 out of 18 test matches & 6 of out 20 ODIs played against New Zealand on their home grounds. India's first tour in '67-68 was a successful tour where India's famous spin trio knocked out the Kiwis 3-1 in the test series. The first tour was historic because that was India's first overseas series victory in 12 attempts. Since then, India has never won a series in New Zealand. Their last outing in 2002-03 was a disaster as India lost the test series 0-2 & the ODIs 2-5. India has not played a T20 in New Zealand. For that matter, India has played just one T20 match with New Zealand . That was during the T20 World Cup in 2007. There too, India had lost and it was their only loss in the tournament.

Tendulkar feels that the condition in New Zealand will be windy & harsh while the comeback bowler Balaji is hungry to perform in the tests irrespective of the conditions. Srinath who played in the disastrous 2002-03 series, thinks that the "drop-in" pitches were the source of problems. John Wright,the Indian coach in 2002-03, is of the opinion that India's present bowling attack led by Zaheer,Ishant & backed by quality spinners like Harbhajan, Sehwag will prove decisive for India. Dhoni & Kirsten,the present Indian coach, are content with the right balance in their team.

The NewZealanders are match fit after some good showing against the Windies & the Aussies and will be taking on India on more than equal terms since they are playing at home. While the quality of pitches could possibly be a factor to tweak with, for New Zealand; the pressure is on India to perform & rewrite history after 40 years.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Corporate Governance in India & the Truth about its knotty Network

This article , on the new face of Indian corporate governance, by the Nasscom chief is timely and well articulated. The incident at Satyam has once again focussed attention on the single biggest scourge that afflicts "India Inc"(or "Corporate India").They are the murky dealings of corruption that goes behind scrupulously dressed financial statements of the listed as well in unlisted (more so) companies.The separation of the posts of Chairman and CEO is an excellent recommendation as that brings in that extra dimension of accountability in the actions of a wayward CEO. Ganesh also recommends that companies in other industries should follow the path of "disclosures" pioneered by the "paragons" in the IT industry. Maybe the paragons should also take the lead in disclosing the practices & financial statements followed by their "Channel Partners", the final interface with the customers. The market is aware of many instances where murky dealings with end customers are handled not by the company but by their channel partners. Its a clever move to keep one's state clean while the "business" goes on as usual. In 2009 , the role of "Government" will be doubly important as it will be the biggest customer & spender for India Inc. Nasscom should be proactive in ensuring that these deals with the government are clean in their entirety.
Secondly , a cursory look at the boards of various NGOs (specially the ones floated by corrupt business tycoons) would probably throw up the Who's Who of IT industry among others. One wonders whether such eminent individuals do have significant quality time to devote , at least in board meetings if not in the operations, of these well-connected NGOs. My experience while working in this sector shows that save for a handful, rest of these distinguished professionals don't have the time. What then can be the motivation for being there in the first place? When does "Networking" morph into an "Unfair Nexus"? When does association with eminent names become a legitimate excuse for committing oneself as one of the many funding-but- absentee directors; most of whom look at such NGOs as legitimate tax-saving bodies only? These are some of the straight-forward questions that NASSCOM should ask of its members who hold "absentee" board positions in multi-company, multi-NGO outfits. Otherwise, its advice to reach "higher truth in corporate governance" will sound like empty rhetoric.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Blogging and censorship in India.

I read somewhere that Blogging has become so addictive among the netizens, that around 550 million readers go through close to 200 million blogs. More than the numbers what is striking here is an establishment of a global environment which encourages free speech. India, too, has her share of bloggers on the net. The number of blogs , as reported by directory sites,is around 20000 upwards. Some statistics reveal that more than 90% of Indian blogs are in English.
Free speech flowing out of freedom of thought is not necessarily objectionable only in authoritarian societies as in China (which incidentally dominates the blogosphere with 73 million bloggers). 'Free speech' has its critics in India too. The sword of censorship can fall upon a hapless blogger in two ways.
Firstly, the Government can block group of websites through Department of Telecommunications (DoT) as it did here in July'2006. This is a formal way and has the support of an act passed in the parliament. Second is a more informal way where an individual blogger can be threatened with legal action to apologise for his free speech. This is an interesting story about a media personality who while straining her vocal chord about free speech could not accept the same about herself. The fracas resulted in an informal censorship where the blogger had to withdraw the post and post a detailed apology for all to see. The blogger community reacted quite spontaneously. Read the complete story & discussion here ; regular updates over here and a threat from a richie-rich broker-blogger to buy over the media house here.
Fortunately, the Internet also works in ways that can work around such bans. These are some of the common ways.
On the first anniversary of my blog, here's wishing longevity to blogging and blog lovers all around the world.
Photo Source:The Blogger Cafeteria