My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
this link

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Mall a Mall - All this week

The Great Mall Mania is on. As soon as a big retail mall like Big Bazaar opens in a locality, swarms of consumers swoop on it like locusts in a cane field. TheIndian consumerist soul repressed for decades finds its nirvana in the wide array of choices and freebies. This modern day Kumbh Mela goes beyond shopping and has significant social impact. Jayesh and I plan to dig deep into the mall culture and come up with our views and findings the whole of this week.
So stay tuned all this week for this unique attempt at colloborative blogging.

Every day Kumbh Melas

I went to the newly opened Big Bazaar at Kandivali last Sunday and believe me, I was astounded. The place was as crowded as the Kumbh Melas. The queue length at the cash counters were longer than ones before the Madam Tussauds. How has our country suddenly changed from being one full of spiritual individauls who at the drop of a hat quoted ancient texts to scorn at the materialistic instincts of the rest of the world? Well, for the first time, so many of us can really afford it. But there are several other factors also. For instance, I think India is getting increasingly fashion conscious. Girls have stopped wearing their dad's shirts and trousers. Salwars are no more made for kangaroos but for homo sapiens. And the lettuce, broccoli and aspargus has made a quiet entry into the Indian kitchen. The malls also offer the highest ratio of attractive faces per square feet compared to any other public space in India - so "Lech Mans" and "Lech Crofts" can have a ball. And for some, its just the pleasure of passing time in a clean air-conditioned place without being questioned.
But given such attractive propositions and a limited number of malls in India, the existing malls are getting overcrowded and shopping is increasingly resembling an ordous attempt by an Andheri resident to get down from a Virar fast train. Chances of a stampede are increasing and the malls might easily be targeted by terrorosits. So i suggest taking a few drastic measures to make shopping a more pleasant experience. We should have expressways and traffic signals inside malls to allow faster navigation. No person should be allowed to shop more than 20Kg and for all bills above Rs 3000, one would have to get an income tax clearance. Also apartment dwellers can engage in community shopping by sending one representative from their flat to shop. May be some malls can adopt a "no stags allowed" policy during certain hours. Congestion taxes could be imposed in high visit areas. And like restaurants, people may be asked to book a space in advance before coming to the mall. Are these drastic measures? Well afterall, these malls are evoving into heritage monuments and are definitely emerging as institutes of national importance.

Relationships between the sexes have changed because of the coming of the malls. See the complete post on Booletpoint to see how 'malls they are a changin'.

Sudoku Sudoku everywhere, not one I can solve

For the few who are yet to hear about it - Sudoku is an ancient Japanese game which has 81 squares with a few numbers between 1 to 9 written on it. One plays the game by filling out the empty squares to ensure that all the numbers 1-9 appear in all the rows and columns as well as on grids of 9 squares without any repetition within these grids. For people conversant with computational theory, Sudoku is an NP complete problem that can be expressed as a graph-coloring problem. The stars of sudoku started to rise first in Japan around 1986 and then in the UK in 2005. Nowadays the game cliams to be the fastest growing puzzle in the world - the Rubics Cube of the 21st century, with the Japanese alone buying 600,000 sudoku magazines a month. British newspapers including The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, The Sun, and The Daily Mirror have all started publishing the game like the daily crossword. Some say it was promoted heavily by the Brit newspapers after the Brit general elections to fill up the space previously filled by election coverage. The Times provides a mobile version of the game chargin 4.5 pounds for 10 game versions.

Ancient games have been making a comeback. Games like Go, Thai Boxing etc. are widely popular now. Some social observers say that the intellectual level of the society can be understood by studying the games popular in the society. If that is true, then are we coming full circle? Sudoku has become popular because of it's simplicity in understanding and it's complexity in solving. Also its very paper-format and screen friendly. Will Sudoku replace the crossword? Only time will tell.

For the more initiated: try,,

Friday, May 27, 2005

The year of the Homo-sentimentalis

Recently the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the three exam boards in England, came up with certain guidelines for students appearing in the GSCE or A-level examination (class X and XII in India):
  1. Students will get maximum 5% extra points if a parent or close family member died recently
  2. Max 4% extra points if the deceased is a more distant relative
  3. 2% extra if the house pet dies on examination day
  4. 1% extra if the pet died a day before exam
  5. 3% extra if the student witnesses a distressing event on examination day
  6. 3% extra also for a freshly broken limb or asthma attack
  7. 1% extra if student is suffering from headache on exam day
Of course, all these have been framed with the best intentions. But my wicked, sick and sunless mind immediately tried to work out the possible consequences. For example in a hyper-competitive world, won't people be more pro-active in getting these extras? Will kids start muredering their pets, distant relatives, close relatives and parents? As well as get a headache while watching these distressing events the same day, breaking a limb or two in the process? Or will samaritan parents, distant relatives, and pets themselves sacrifice their lives on exam day? Whatever be the way to implement, there could be crisis situation in hospitals, police stations and at Hampstead Heath. So England, please gear up your infrastructure, just in case.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Stress test in Ohio

Last year when I was at Columbus, Ohio, I came across a hip-hop fair while strolling past the Botanical Garden.There were shops set up by black americans, africans and make shift galleries where amateurs were singing hip-hop. I thought of checking it out. However, I had a feeling that my visit there might lead to an awkward situation. It was presidential election time and Ohio being a swing state, feelings were running high. If one of my colleagues saw me in a hip-hop fair, I would be surely taken for a Democrat. This could have positive or negative but all the same awkward consequences in office. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to quietly pass through the fair without spending much time.

Alas, when I was crossing a large open tent, a young black woman handed me a booklet and before I could react, an affable black man guided me inside the tent. The smooth talker made me sit near a table with a few dialled instruments on top. He made me hold too large steel cylinders and asked me my name. When I opened my mouth to respond, all the needles in the instruments swung to the maximum. My affable friend told me that it was because I was under a lot of stress, almost near the threshold of passing out. But he said, there was hope. He introduced me to something called "Scientology" founded by someone called Ron Hubbard. Yes, scientology was the cure to all my problems. He showed me around several pictures which showed people with yes stress and no stress, before stress and after stress. Yes, i thought I need to do something to make those dials stay quiet. After 30 minutes of chat, my affable friend finally showed me the books which if read, would solve it all for me. The cheapest was worth 25USD. I touched the steel cylinder on my own and this time even before opening my mouth, the needles hit maximum. "Not working my friend", I said. Disturbed he asked me to atleast donate some 5 dollars for his foundation. He kept the cylinders away from me this time, but he saw my head tiliting to show that again I have hit the maximum. Totally stressed out, my affable friend said, "Come-on, all this scientology stuff is based on the holy Vedas from India only, atleast give two dollars for this booklet!!!" (After all he had spent 30 min with me)
I handed back the booklet to him and left saying, "Thats the problem, my friend. These Indian books never work for the Indians."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Missed opportunity for self-help writers - Yogi Berra

I have always had trouble with self-help books. Not because they always seem to suggest so much scope for improvement in me. But also because they are based on examples from the known history or phenomena. So what happens is that they will often cite the best in any area as the example to follow. And here is my major concern. If I try to emulate a particular person I will get limited by his limitations. And thats a great turnoff for me. The more initiated may get shocked by this attitude but the fact is what is.
So I have decided not to read any self-help book. Rather I have started internalising the quotes from Yogi Berra, US baseball legend who also happens to be the most quoted sportsman in the world.
Please find inspiration from some of his quotes:
"Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?"
"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there"
"If you can't imitate him, don't copy him"
"You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six"
"Baseball is 90% mental -- the other half is physical"
"Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded"
"It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much"
"I made a wrong mistake"
"Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel"
"You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours"
"I didn't really say everything I said"
His quotes hit my subconscious and hit it hard. Wish the self-help writes could be half as sublime as Yogi.

More on this to follow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

My struggle to increase eyeballs

One month into blogging, my blog statistics read something like this: 28 site visits, 43 page views, average visit length of 53 seconds. Not only are few people reading my articles, the ones who are reading are probably just glancing through them. Or may be they are such frequent readers that they just read the latest post and move on. Some fans (fans ????) have consoled me saying that may be I am part of that "Long tail". But I am concerned whether I am really part of the tail or just the flies moving around it.
Whatever it is, I am convinced that I need to do something to increase my blogs popularity. I have several really good ideas to do that and I am sure they will succeed. Expect some of these in my next postings:
  • More sex; my blog will from now onwards give you just what you need together with a viagra pill.
  • I shall change my name and write under the pseudonym of a young girl. Then my postings will give you all a peek into the woman in me (as a fan?? suggested)
  • More of the customary intellectual bashing: Yes there will be lots of protest articles against George Bush, Laloo, Saurav Ganguly, Gujarat riots, call center working hours
  • More of the customary intellectual support: And lots more of support postings for orange-red-tulip-rose revolution in the ex-soviet republics, gay rights, IIM fees-hike, genetic feminine superiority etc.
  • Lot more page 3 : Yes, more remix articles. I shall give you the details of what happened beyond those glamorous parties.
  • More remix: I shall remix the more famous blog posts (So you will se post like "Indian IT sector shines- Lost in the bathtub mix" and so on.
  • More scandals: Yes, I shall reveal how Maikalal Jaikisan handled me when I was a kid....Only on this blog
Suggestions are welcome. Help me reach you better

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Who - the Hare, or the Turtle

The internet, advanced and cheaper telecom networks, Blackberrys and Ryan Air have unleashed upon us the world of BPO, 24 X 7, global village, always-on executives. Decisions have to be made on the fly. Accuracy is secondary, Speed is the key. Wait a minute, theres no choice, you have to be accurate at double the speed. No Walk the Talk- its talk while you walk, or for some "walk while you talk". Go to China first, then figure out what to do. Buy a CRM first then figure out who your customer is. Sleeping elephants have woken up and are dancing too. Instant superstars - American idol, the Apprentice, King of the Jungle. Pre-emptive attacks!!!! DHA, ARA - make your brains work earlier in your life. How to learn HTML in 24 hours, 7 habits of effective people - instant pocket guides to salvation. Pre-cooked food, fast food, speed reading, GMAT, GRE. Be quick or be dead. Be the hare or - You are fired!!!

However the turtles are also hitting back - and as expected - slowly. The Concorde has been withdrawn. The Slow Food Movement, which promotes having non-industrially prepared food along a good company movement, is gradually drawing strength. Founded by Carol Petrini in Italy, the movement now boasts of 83,000 members worldwide. People are practising yoga, slow sex, reiki etc by hordes. In Italy again, 42 towns now belong to the Slow Cities Association.
Soap operas that run for a lifespan are fast filling up the prime-time. "Not working on weekends" is back in fashion. And yes, even the US of A is going slow on Syria.

PS: The more initiated can speed read through Carl Honore's In Praise of Slowness : How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed. Carl wrote the book when he reached his moment of truth when he bought "one-minute bedtime stories" to read to his son.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

News - Clontz style

Eddie Clontz died in 2004. But his legacy lives on through the Weekly World News. Clontz was a firm believer that "truth should never interfere with a good story". So his newspaper made an art of false news on UFOs, aliens, hoax scientific inventions supported by quotes from imaginary persons and facts. The magazine reached its peak through articles like "Bat-Boy" and "Elvis is alive".

Some of us may quickly come to dismiss his style since we regard our conventional news with such high esteem. But what is news after all? Isn't it just a recollection of events as told by a novice reporter? And arent these reported events colored by the enormous range of motivations constantly at work? News is created mostly when men do something. And what men do is not always genuine. Good examples of this are the news about the Piltdown Man, the Iraqi WMD threat, the Indian prodigy getting the NASA award and countless others. And with sting operations catching fancy with news providers, the line between fiction and facts are getting dimmer. What "Weekly World News" does is that it brings the hoax one level donwstream. It will be interesting to see how this concept catches on in places like India.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My article on Time Asia- But is democracy the final goal

In 2001, one of my articles appeared on,9754,170238,00.html

In that article I had argued that India's greatest achievement after independence was to keep the democratic system going. I reasoned that despite enormous failings of the system, democracy ensured some basic dignity for all.

Four years hence I stand not so convinced about this. I think that a lot of such democratic babble (including my time article) are based purely on emotion rather than facts. Given that an average Chinese has become so much richer than his Indian counterpart, what value lies in our pride in democracy? Many people would question whether happines is the ultimate objective of a society. The Bhutanese convinced about happiness actually started a National Happiness Index. Many would argue the objective of a society is rather the facility for its individuals to exercise free will. But with people like Edward Wilson, Dawkins etc. suggesting that there is no such thing called "Free Will" since all of us are genetically hard-wired, the aha of democracy seems subdued. Or is it the plain simple economy, stupid?

Our day to day lives provide some clue. For most of our waking hours we are unable to exercise our free will (if it exists). When we are young we are under the command of our parents who guide almost all our actions. When we get higher education, our whims are fancies come way below in priority when compared to the whims and fancies of our teachers and professors. When we pursue our careers, we have to bear with the most autocratic system of all - the corporate culture. And finally when we have retired and grown old, we are often at the mercy of society, doctors and our children.
So for much of our lives we are simply unable to exercise any hint of free will. So why make so much hue and cry about not being able to vote once every 5 years?