Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rockstar - Definite one-time watch and multiple times listen :)

Just back from Rockstar… One line review: You will definitely like it, might even love it, but will not “enjoy” it…

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The cast seems designed to cast/propel Ranbir into limelight. Shammi Kapoor with a cameo would be happy to see another Kapoor join the league of great actors that we know the Kapoor-stable has produced… Ranbir is brilliant in all roles he has depicted – the Jatt college-goer, the troubled artist and the pained lover… Nargis sure has a long way to go before she establishes herself; her dialogues appear fake – sometimes with no emotion and at other times, overdramatic. I was left wondering why Aditi Rao and Nargis didn’t swap roles…

The cinematography leaves little scope of improvement. Shots of the lake in Kashmir to the customary European buildings and orange rooftops, from frozen jungles to the European meadows, it has it all captured in its best form.

The screenplay and direction is non-linear. Very few directors have been successfully captured non-linear movies. Imtiaz Ali does it brilliantly. The movie shifts from one flashback to another to present without warning. Probably maintaining consistency of Ranbir’s look was the motive. The motive was well served – despite rapid shifts in timelines, the movie appears seamless.

The story is not that great but then I suppose it was not meant to be. No pretences here – its just a troubled rockstar’s love story…

And why haven’t I talked of the music – well, there is little I can say about it… You have to listen to it to know more. It will suffice if I said, ITS MAGICAL!! Rahman came into the industry with the magical Bombay – this definitely takes that bar far beyond any other in recent years. Oscar or no Oscar, the music is definitely you will take back with you. I’d be shocked if you leave the hall not humming one of the many tunes from the movie… Mohit Chauhan has done it again… Kun Fayakun, Naadan Parindey are absolute gems. Saada Haq is as rebellious as can be – sorta imbibes the image of ‘rock’… And when its Rahman, you gotta expect a mixture – there’s sufi, folk and even a Czech gypsy tune (Hawaa Hawaa)…

Listen to the Music Here

Overall, the movie could’ve been shortened by half an hour or so and still would have achieved the same level of appreciation. If anything, the stretched second half could have been done away with. But a definite must watch…

P.S: I was asked the meaning of Katiya Karoon - literally it means "I will spin your cotton" but I guess it means "I'll do anything for you" in context.
P.S2: Similarly in case you are wondering what Kun Fayakun, it is an urdu phrase said in praise of the lord. It means "Be. And it is."

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Unknown Euphoria

Some days the fate is really kind on you… Those days you will feel an unknown euphoria. You want to jump up in the air and then the mind will tell you to control for this one day is just one amongst the many others where you will want to jump in the air; But directly off a 2000ft stone cliff overhanging a raging sea…

On those good days, you often do not know what it is that made you jump up in air. You never know if this euphoria will last – you sure want it to but fear it might. Just that you are happy and can’t stop smiling.

Or it might be that you know what made you happy but you are afraid if you touch the bubble, it might just burst! Someone pings you to say ‘Hi’ and you check your chat history to be sure it actually happened! Someone calls you and you call back an hour later saying, “Did you call, I’m sorry I was busy that time” though you might have been plucking imaginary petals of imaginary roses to pass time.

Even with that bubble intact, sometimes you wonder if the event was a big enough to get you euphoric. You are like, ‘I drink Coke every day – which special happiness opened today? I talk to people daily, which idol of mine did I talk to today? Or was it my long lost sweetheart calling to say I was missed?’

Or sometimes, you are just plain happy to be happy… anticipating your whole life to be as was today… Hoping you never sleep or even if you do, you wake up with the same euphoria… I shall go to sleep today with this same euphoria… and what is the best part - I KNOW THE REASON TOO :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why I believe Anna Hazare is wrong in his means (and not the ends)...

At the outset, holding the democratic process to ransom through political blackmail is wrong. Going on fast-unto-death is illegal (equivalent to homicide) and any person indulging in it should be arrested – doesn’t matter if that person has the backing of a billion Indians (and the remaining million are only the “corrupt” law enforcement agencies).

Now coming to the issue of a Lokpal bill…

I would be going against popular sentiment but dare I say – WE DO NOT NEED A LOKPAL BILL – Neither the “Civil Society” version nor the government version. Here are my reasons for the same:

  1. Too few cooks make poison not broth: Our constitution – the Raison d'ĂȘtre of all law agencies – is a brilliant piece of applied thought. It creates three bodies – the executive, the judiciary and the legislative – all of which are independent but completely dependent. What one does can be checked and annulled by the other through justified action. The problem arises when these come together – the exact thing that the Jan Lokpal proposes to do! Hand over power to one person/institution and make him absolute… to make law, decide violations and ensure execution - and what you have is a perfect broth - the only problem being that the recipe being perfect is of 'disaster'...

  2. The RTI, the CVC, the CAG – all these are bodies designed to curb corruption – but do they work? So now we create another one – and then five years down the line – another one to supervise the Lokpal... When does it end! The problem is not existence of no control or supervision – its too many controls.

  3. The reform process – if taken to its logical conclusion – will remove the necessity of any such bill. I wrote earlier about this – the reforms have created a less corrupt society already (imagine getting phone connections, paying electricity bills, paying taxes, getting a stamp paper without paying bribes even ten years earlier) – the corruption has been pushed up the ladder… Yes, I’m worried when my tax is gobbled up (supposedly) by corrupt (again, supposedly) ministers… But thankfully my day-to-day jobs have fewer hassles now. By slowly making more things transparent, the corruption will be pushed up the ladder – and then out! By adding the Lokpal – we just add a wrung to the ladder which the corruption can climb!

I’ll not go into the problems of the Jan Lokpal Bill – there are far too many that even a noob like me can see (for eg: the concentration of power, the selection panel, the age limits etc. etc.) because I know the end is justified – lesser corruption… In its current form the Jan Lokpal Bill is a situation where (as mentioned in a debate on TV) – If there is a theft in my house, I’ll worry about locking up my house later – I’ll first go to fast to force the commissioner to provide me more police force!!!

Now people say, OK you are just writing blogs – at least we are out here protesting against the government and their corrupt practices! Well I say, at least I’m doing my job right… In the last full year, I can vow to have never paid a bribe -no single rupee. How many of you can vouch for that? I agree I never voted. How many of you accept that? If not, did you or did you not vote for the “right” candidate from the local level right to the MP! We all expect our rights to be honoured but forget the duties that the constitution also mentions…!!!

I’m a firm believer in democracy – I’ve been part of School and college politics myself – no matter how much the elections were rigged – the best people, more often than not, get elected if everyone participates. So once the democratic process is set right, everything comes in place... Here are the electoral reforms I propose:

  1. You want a strong Jan Lokpal Bill. Bring a strong “Vote Karo” bill. How about sentencing people who do not vote to 5 years rigorous imprisonment... would you be ready for that? How about giving a tax rebate to people who voted in the last general election?

  2. Ok, I want to vote but who do I vote for... So ban people who have been convicted (not accused) of any law breaking/tax evasion from elections. Yes today very few will pass/fail, slowly more will... finally one day (probably 100 yrs from now) we’ll have an unblemished candidate list!

  3. Use RTI more. You find some problem – please take the trouble of filing an RTI application. Instead of asking for more governance mechanisms, learn to use the ones that exist!

  4. Our courts (and nationalised banks) work for less than half the year – how about extending that? Have more fast-track courts to settle small disputes in a speedy manner... You might not agree to it, the courts (including the lawyers and judges) are highly overburdened for now!!!
Of course, I’m no expert – just another “Aam Aadmi” who fails to see reason for using undemocratic coercive solutions for perfectly legitimate causes. And what is most of all, I do not want to put the blame of my lethargy on a weak system...!!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yes I'm Corrupt...

Yes I’m corrupt – but less than what I was ten years ago. Yes I'm corrupt.

1990 – That was when I recall making my first STD call. I remember my dad taking me to a phone booth. The guy operating the booth could decide if he wanted to connect my call – I had to pay him extra else the line would be “busy”. I did.

1995 – I remember understanding the train ticket booking system. You went to an “agent”. You gave him 10% per ticket or Rs.250 whichever is higher. He went inside the booking chamber in the station and paid a percentage to the operator who then booked the ticket. It was long time later I realized that it was NOT how you booked tickets and that what we did actually constituted to paying a “bribe”.

2000 – I remember opening my own bank account. I thought I would be required to pay an “opening charge” to an introducer – to my surprise (a pleasant one) – bribe was no longer the norm. The bank account still exists.

2005 – I buy my first mobile phone and can make calls at any time of the day – including STD. I ‘message’ for free.

2010 – I pay my taxes online. There is no “tax for paying tax”.

And they say, corruption has increased over the past years. The scale of corruption might have increased. The 2G scam – well I will refrain from giving it a number – the amount is quoted to be far above my comprehension – seems to be the biggest scam ever in the Indian History. But is it more than the cumulative “charge” taken by that “STD operator” across India? And so on and so forth…

The point I'm trying to make is that while the scale of corruption might seem to have increased, it has become extremely concentrated. The system is more open and “reform” – the same reform that many “activists” claim is the root of evil in today’s society – has reduced corruption at the grass-root level. Why do I bother if A Raja garnered the money if I get a good mobile connection wherever I go? For one, I’m sure he couldn’t have kept that money for himself. There would be a Tata-Radia hiding somewhere in the closet. Secondly, the government might have lost out by selling the spectrum at giveaway prices – but isn’t it exactly what prompted the telecom price-wars that ultimately benefitted the “Aam Aadmi”. The combined NPV of public benefit would surely be more than the amount that Raja is being charged for.

Anna Hazare might go to jail for fighting against corruption – and many on FB might “like” it or “attend” the “Aug 15th event against corruption” – I will continue to live my usual life knowing I’m paying my taxes – and JUST THAT. Yes, my money might be going to a pocket of an “undeserving individual” whose only qualification is that he is an uneducated MLA/MP – but as I theorized long time back – any money making dupes someone else – so in essence – everyone is corrupt! Don’t go so hard on Raja because he made more money than you – that is not anti-corruption – that I call ‘envy’.

P.S: On second thought, oh yeah, prosecute him – get the black money back – that will mean people will have more money – but oops – the prices of common goods might have just gone up by the same amount by the time – and even if they don’t – who doesn’t ever want more money! :D

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guidelines to filing IT Return online using ITR-I and ITR-V in India

Wow… For the first time, I filed my own IT Return. After doing it, yes it seems to be very very simple. However, till I had actually done it, it seemed pretty complex to me… There was no set guidelines on how to do it. There are many websites that take money to do it for you – so obviously no one tells you how to do it yourself. But thank the internet and the open source inspiration – now you can file your own IT return as I have done (which hopefully works).

Disclaimer: I’m no tax consultant. So I bear no liability should this not be a correct process and you be raided by the IT authorities. In case, this is wrong, please do bring to my notice so that I might file the correct IT Return.

Just a brief introduction to me: This section is important because for someone else, the method described below might not be true… I’m employed with my salary being my only source of income. The interest that the Bank pays me for keeping this salary is the other. I pay rents and have a few perquisites. I get these details from the Form 16 given to me by my employer.

  1. Go to:

  2. Create account using your PAN number (below the Login button, there is a link for "New User Registration".

  3. Download ITR-1 - it is a zip file. Extract it to some known folder - this might be required later too
    • If you are filing return for the income earned in year 2010-11, the corresponding. AY is 2011-12. Ensure you download the correct ITR-I form. The AY is mentioned at the top.

  4. When you open the file, it will ask you to enable macros. Go ahead.

  5. Fill up form. The fields marked * are mandatory.
    • You will need form 16 to fill the form. It is pretty simple if you have those details.

    • In case you do not know your WARD/CIRCLE, you can leave it blank. When you upload the XML, this is automatically filled using you PAN Card information. In case you need to confirm this, you can visit: and enter your PAN number.

    • When the file is complete - click on "Calculate Tax". This is very important. This step calculates the tax that you need to pay. In case, the TDS is less, it calculates extra tax payable.

  6. Fill in the Bank Account Number. The MICR is the 9-digit numerical code written at the bottom of your cheque.

  7. Then click "Generate XML"

  8. Save that XML to a known folder.

  9. Log into your account (created in Step 2). Go to Submit.

  10. Since you do not have digital signature, leave the checkbox empty.

  11. Upload the XML.

  12. The website will generate an ITR-V form. Download it. it is again a ZIP file which needs to be saved for future reference.

  13. The ITR-V is a pdf. the password to the pdf is {PAN number in small letters}{birthdate in dd/mm/yyyy}. I've not received the ITR-V on email as the website mentioned I would.

  14. Print the ITR-V. Sign at the appropriate place (at the bottom). Do not make any other alterations to this form.

  15. Send the same by Speed Post to: CPC, Post Bag No - 1, Electronic City Post Office, Bangalore – 560100. DO NOT SEND BY COURIER
Well, that is it. Hoping my IT Return is successful.

#Edit-1: I received the ITR-V form by mail two days after e-filing.
#Edit-2: It is important to add any interest you might have received on your savings bank account or Fixed Deposits you have as "Other Income".

#Edit-3: So your Form-16 doesn't include your Interest Income. How do you pay the additional tax that you owe? Visit --> Choose Challan 280 --> Tax Applicable 0021 --> Fill in details --> Type of Payment: 300

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Uttarakhand Tourism welcomes you to Pithoragarh

Of the famed Kashmir beauty, I had only heard… One visit to Pithoragarh (PTH) and I’m already thinking, if this place, often touted as the miniature Kashmir because of its geographical features, is so beautiful, what would the real thing be. Small villages scattered in an extremely green Soar Valley, ice-capped peaks in the distance, clouds floating above houses and hotels, beautiful soft-spoken Kumaoni people – all set to leave you wondering why on earth has this place not been on the tourist radar so far…

It is then that you also realize the answer to the question you posed to yourself... It is then that you remember the scary hairpin bends and steep landslide-struck roads that you negotiated to reach this place from the more famous Almora! Almora is around 4 hrs from Kathgodam (the nearest rail head - KGM). Then you travel for another two hrs before you reach Daniya. The road gets adventurous after that – and the last hour of journey after Ghat – it is surely not for the faint hearted!

But if you braved those roads and reached here, its time for some bliss... terraced fields all along the hill will be the first thing that catches your attention...
Complete hills have been carved into concentric circles of farms (apparently if want to purchase farmland, you need to purchase a complete circle). The town is not really blessed with the best of hotels but then, for an outdoor person like me, it didn’t really matter. In the distance, on a clear morning, you can see the Panchachuli peak from very close outside the main town. The church at the Chandak pass gives a panoramic view which is sure to leave you flabbergasted for not having come here earlier...

I had to travel further the next day and so retired early the next day. Nothing is as refreshing as waking up to the early morning sun. Leaving at 6, I set out for Dharchula – a small town around 4 hours away – on the Indo-Nepal border. From Jajar Deval (just outside the main town of PTH) to Kanalichina, the roads were pretty good. If Ghat-PTH road was tough, the road there on is perilous! Of course, the extremely cautious and experienced driver (Bhuvan) made it more of a joyride. A few miles before Joljibi, you meet the river and then on, its a journey with the cascading river as your companion. The Gori and the Kali rivers meet under a hanging rope bridge which connects India and Nepal. It is where you realise what absolute BS it is for man to create borders – exactly similar terrain and people (in fact even the currency) on both sides of the ‘border’! Leave alone everything, the chai in the same small glass tumbler tastes exactly the same!

Here on its pretty much a nice ride in the river-valley – on the Mansarovar Yatra Route - till you reach the NHPC colony and the military area of Dharchula. Dharchula is a warm place (a comfortable t-shirt would be ‘good’ attire) situated in the valley along the same Kali river. Oh btw, from Joljibi to Dharchula, the Kali river acts as an international boundary between India and Nepal! You can cross over without Visa and can carry personal daily goods but nothing tradable. You buy a Pepsi bottle woth Rs.25 – give a Rs.50 note – and get Rs.40 back (exchange rate is 60paise to a Nepali rupee) :D The hotels leave much room improvement. Rains are frequent and heavy at this time of the year (pretty much through Apr-Sep). No phone connections work except Nepal Telecom (the STD Booths charge Rs.10 per min to call India).

The return was tiring - one that even gave me a sun-burn because of the harsh mountain sun! I travelled to Haldwani in 12 hours - battered and tattered but extremely satisfied and pleased :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rest In Peace

The city ringed with fire, police bell
The city was picturesque, a living hell
Amidst this a drunkard lingered on
Life was long, endless night without a dawn…
Out of the shops, buildings was thrown he
Silent as the idol, looked on Thee
Laden with heavy armour, masked
Finally a policeman stopped, asked
“Don’t u want to return to house,
Seeking u are ur children, spouse?”

The drunkard put his hands in pocket
Tears rolled down his deep eye-socket
Out of his shirt, he took out some ash
Just then there was another splash
“This is my house”, he said, “my wife.”
“Burnt as you can see is my life.”
“Out of these my children call out.”
“Can’t u hear, feel them shout?”
I die. Do me a favour, will you?
Please cremate me, O please do!

O god! Please take me to them
Take me away from this mayhem.
This was one or many, no one knows
To tell the exact number, none too close
O leaders of religion, please wake
Life you know, is not a piece of cake
Some years of life we have on lease
Let us live, at least “REST IN PEACE”
Let us live, at least “REST IN PEACE”

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Analysis of Baba Ramdev's Demands

My Analysis of Baba Ramdev's Demands

Disclaimer: I'm not for corruption. Completely against it. I accept I might (surely would) have indulged in some form of corruption over my life and thus claim no moral right against corruption. But yes, I consider blackmail to be the biggest form of corruption - and 'fast-unto-death' is blackmail.

    Tough Lokpal Bill; death sentence for the corrupt
Death Penalty in the Indian Constitution is awarded in the rarest of rare cases. And as far as I know, corruption surely not amongst the ‘rarest of rare’. There is not a single instance of a person being corrupt – it’ll always be a huge group of people who are corrupt. Until of course the aim is to reduce the population of India, this demand is surely not viable.
    Return of all black money stashed abroad
How? Are the Swiss Banks liable to Indian laws and ordinances?
    Abolish Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 currency notes
This almost seems like Faking News! Let the government bring the inflation to negative such that the 500 and 1000 rupee notes are not needed. In the current India, can any sound-minded person tell me this demand is valid!!! Reissue of currency - isn't educating people on counterfeit notes a better option?
    Replace the British systems with Indian alternative
Such generalisations never work. British Law is also based on “Natural Law”. If you are so bent of changing the laws, ‘Civil Society’ has two eminent Lawyers on-board. Why don’t they tell the government which laws need to be amended? Many laws have been amended in the past and many more can be – at least point out what needs to be changed! “Change British systems” is a foolish generalisation!! Similarly for education – Run any institution you want – if people believe your system is better – people will join your system.
    Reform in the electoral system; Prime Minister is directly elected by people
There are pros and cons of this. Calls for a big debate. But yes, there is not sure way of saying the direct election will elect any better person than the current system. Might, and might not. So no comments.
    Ensure all citizens declare their incomes
This is more Chidambaram’s demands too...!!! How? When people build wealth in the name of charitable insstitutions and educational institutions, how do you make them disclose their incomes!
    Promote Hindi (almost the expense of English)
Haven’t the Chinese been lesson enough...!!! They are all set to conquer the world – not by inhibiting English but ensuring kids learn English. I really don’t understand what it is that populist leaders have against English. Do anything to develop your language. Why curb the language that is going to propel the Indians into the global league – accept it – it might be bitter – English is now the ‘official’ language of the world – and anyone would do well to be well-versed in the language – even if forcibly.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Never Let Me Go (2010)

There has to be something about dystopia that gets my fingers moving on the keyboard faster than ever... First it was 1984 and now this... Just watched the movie “Never Let Me Go”. It is one movie that you will want to see even if not for Keira Knightley :) No I’m no pessimist who believes dystopia is coming and mankind will one day submit to the dystopian thought depicted but yes, it does get me thinking, “What if...”!!

Warning: Plot Summary discussed here...

In a British school set in almost perfect scenery of grasslands and dotted with trees standing over fences, students are taught to be themselves completely healthy as they are ‘special’. What is so special about them – they are being grown for organ donation!!! It is no science fiction mystery where the dystopia is revealed at the end... It is right there – in your face – watch further at your own peril - types. The idyllic cinematography makes the thought a little less scary than what it would have been had Christopher Nolan handled it with shocks and surprises...

Amongst this unnatural setting is where a love triangle develops between Ruth, Kathy and Tony – though each one of them is ultimately aware of the inevitable – their untimely yet predictable death (known in the film as ‘completion’). There is hope developed through a rumour of a ‘deferral’... Even I thought there might be hope in this dystopian land – but there was none. When Tony thinks art might the route to getting referral, he is very courteously (or curtly) informed, “We didn't have to look into your souls, we had to see if you had souls at all.” Ruth goes first – left to die on the operating table as one of her vital organ is removed and put into a bag (Yes, I told u, its right-in-your-face stuff...). Tony’s eyes look towards Kathy, the ‘carer’, as he goes under the surgeon’s knife – for the last time.

The climax is hauntingly relieving – Kathy receives the date for her first donation – she would soon die too... or should I say, she would complete. And as she says, “We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time.”

My throat went dry as the credits rolled down the screen... Were my eyes watering – no they weren’t – the shock had left them dry too. The handling of the love and death makes this one must-watch movie though the scary background makes it “not for the faint of heart”. Leave your mind at home and watch it with all your heart – you will enjoy (ok I really dunno if I can call it that) this melodrama no end...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Orwell's 1984

As I complete a ‘novel’ after a long time, something, far worse than my worst nightmare, has gripped me. I just felt it needed some release. It was one of the best novels describing the worst form of dystopia. Now I’ve read some Utopian novels and felt they were too optimistic, but I now sure wish they are true. Such is the gruesome reality of the George Orwell’s ‘1984’.

In a nightmarish land (hopefully far, far away and then further), an Outer ‘Party’ worker finds himself in a moral dilemma. In a land where thought is crime, he has committed it. In a land where there are only three ever-lasting and all applicable party principles, Winston Smith finds himself hating the Party but obeying it all the same. What follows is a tale of absolute dystopia and as he shall discover – the price of freedom is betrayal...

Quite unlike other ‘novels’ I read, this one is not based on a story – but more on a belief – a commentary on the world state of affairs. No wonder that so many of the terms used in the book are part of our language and more importantly, part of our lives.

The dystopia, while it is scary, is almost true – and that is the more scary part of it. In a world so connected, all our actions can be governed and even controlled – and with every evolution in psychological science, we are moving towards how not just the actions but also the thought can be read and controlled. What is history but a repeated version of someone’s memory! What if all our thoughts could be controlled – all memory will be linked to one version – ‘Party’s version – and all past can/will be altered according to what the party wants. And so will be our present and hence the future...

In a long narration from Goldstein’s book, Orwell describes how the world we live in operates – how governments and societies function – not just the how but also the why and not just the why but also the how the ‘government’ can remain powerful and how the ‘upper class’ can remain so – all at the cost of the ‘Proles’.

And in the end – when ‘thoughtcrime’ is committed, how Winston is subjected to mental reconstruction through pain, humiliation and of course the legendary ‘Room one-oh-one’.

I’ll leave with a few memorable (and scary) lines from the novel:

  • The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. The essential act of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labour.

  • It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation . . . we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.

  • If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.


  • Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.

  • Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your nervous system...

  • Under the spreading chestnut tree,
    I sold you... You sold me...

  • It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same--everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another's existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies.

And the eternally haunting line - You once asked me, Winston, what was in room 101. I think you know. Everyone does. The thing that is in room 101... is the worst thing in the world.

All in all, a sure MUST READ...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jail Bharo??? Why not 'Vote Karo'???

There is one person fasting-unto-death to fight corruption in India. There are hundreds supporting him at Jantar Mantar. There are 1000s “sharing” it and 10000s “Liking it”. So is that the way we fight corruption in a democratic country like India?

Fighting corruption is not just a noble idea, but almost a necessity. But how? Ok we know Afzal Guru was sentenced to death. Punishing crime with a suitable punishment is justified right? So I will fast-unto-death till he is hanged...!!! That is childish mentality to say the least.

When I said so, I was told that “this fight is not against a set of corrupt individuals but to bring a change in the system. Any individual is only as good as the system...” Eh?? Really?? Why then do we have leaders who have been credited to have changed the world we live in? Those are the ones we refer to as ‘visionaries’. I’d rather say the opposite; any system is only as good as the person in-charge. And that I can prove by personal and professional examples.

Agreed, the parliament doesn’t want to draft the bill because of vested interests of the parliamentarians involved. No I’m not justifying corruption by saying everyone does it and we can’t do anything about it. I’m just saying, the method to root it out is not by fasting-unto-death. It is through the impeccable execution by the police. We already have many bodies and laws “banning corruption” – the only problem is the execution.

We’ve had institutions like the ‘Lokpal’ in past. Aint CVC a similar body? The fault always is with the constitution of the body. Lokpal is proposed to be constituted by Nobel laureates and Magsaysay Awardees apart from Bharat Ratna awardees and Judges. How, if I may ask, is winning the Nobel, a qualification for prosecution of the corrupt!!! Rajiv Gandhi, a Bharat Ratna Awardee, is eligible for the body despite his alleged role in the country’s largest defence scam – the Bofors.

The biggest perpetrators of corruption are not the politicians but the rich and the famous; I’m sure many are currently on television pretending to be supporting the anti-corruption ‘movement’. If Raja does it, it’s a scam – if Ambani does it, its business acumen...!!! If you do it in Tirupati, its Aastha, if you do it in a government office, its a bribe...!!!

What I believe is that transparency will give the “civil society” far more powers of execution than it feels it currently has. If used correctly, the RTI would negate the necessity of the Lokpal. By creating the Lokpal, we are just deferring our duties to someone we think will do the job (or in other words, shirking). Instead of trying to stop corruption, score a government on parameters and put them to test through the democratic process of election. I’m sure when the voting percentage of India reaches 90%+, there will be no more agitations against corruption. Till then, you can agitate all you want, go on fast-unto-death, light candles and march to India Gate – all you will be doing is increase emission of green house gases without any productive result.

P.S: I’m waiting for the day the Lokpal is charged with favouritism or partisan behaviour or like the CVC, the chief is accused of corruption...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Cobblerist Movement

Modified Feminist Movement Logo
This post is inspired by an old joke and in reply to a chat I had today (yeah, completely unrelated to cricket)...

The world, after decades of strife, was at ease – but an uneasy calm, an eerie silence pervaded all around. American defence budgets had soared to more than 6% of their GDP for the first time. While the majority of budgets for the past 5 years were dedicated to research, for the first time in the decade, manpower costs were hiked – that sure didn’t bode well for the year – was there a war lurking in the background?

The 1984th resolution of the UN Security Council declared that nuclear enrichment by any nation was to be done only under the watch of IAEA. The IAEA, headed by an ex-DefSec, was a 10-member democratic body consisting of 6 US ex-senators, two British ex-PMs, Hamid Karzai and an ageing Jalal Talabani. Pakistan, which had been a largely peaceful nation since the time they contacted Narendra Modi to rebuild their state ridden with turmoil, stated on record that they had no use for nuclear energy and had hence, stopped their civilian nuclear programme. They also refused to buy American technology for the same. Insider sources reported that the budget deficit of the US was to be funded by Pak purchase of advanced enrichment technology for carbon15.

US, under the aegis of IAEA, declared that Pakistan was hiding their nuclear enrichment programme and had potentially been using the same for non-peaceful purposes. They alleged that the enriched C15 was sufficient to manufacture nukes against India. While India remained non-committal, they refused to endorse the US view of the same. However, US was adamant and declared that they would rid the world of all Nukes starting with Pakistan. The democratic IAEA voted unanimously in favour of US aggression.

Brash nation that they are, US declared a unilateral war on Pakistan. The brashness didn’t end there. In a highly publicised press conference, they openly declared that they would obliterate the terrorist network operating in Pakistan and all terrorists, including the cobbler who sat on the parliament house steps would be killed. Suddenly there was outrage in the world. Human Right activists called US a fascist nation for attacking the cobbler. Cobblers from around the world condemned the declaration. Suddenly there were government schemes announced to protect the cobbler. Three nations offered him asylum. The cobbler, ignorant of all that was happening around him, was polishing shoes as usual when the first missile hit the parliament. Afraid, he took up on the offer by the visiting head of state. The ambassador proclaimed victory on humanitarian grounds. The cobbler was airlifted out of Islamabad and taken to an undisclosed location.

Missile after missile kept hitting the Pakistani nation. The cobbler meanwhile was safe in a safehouse 30m underground in an Arab nation. Pakistan was reduced to ashes. 300,000 were presumed dead. Damage estimate touched 10 digits. Meanwhile, human right activists kept shouting slogans against US decision to kill the cobbler. Rights Groups sat on ‘Dharnas’ demanding survival rights of the cobbler. The media covered the complete event in great detail. The cobbler’s parents and family joined in on an indefinite hunger strike. Finally, after 62 days of war, the US accepted it was a folly to think of killing the cobbler. The activists proclaimed victory. The state of Pakistan will forever be known as the state that was sacrificed to save the cobbler.

And India Win the World Cup...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Uttarakhand Tourism Welcomes you to Dhanaulti...

My travel has led me to many popular tourist locations – this time it was a quaint little place – not the typical tourist destination – further up from Mussourie – to a forestland in Dhanaulti. It was a very short trip, nevertheless a most cherished one.

We started on the 25th of March – the time of the year when the weather in Mussourie is comfortable – slightly chilly evenings and sunny days with clear skies. We started around 4:30. The drive from Mussourie does become slightly colder as you start climbing altitudes. After about an hour of drive through the narrow winding roads, we reached Buranskhanda. Few adventure operators organise short treks and mountain biking expeditions from this place. It is windy and gives you the first view of the snow-capped hills of the majestic Himalayas (Winter sees this place being covered in snow). After a short tea break, we proceeded towards Dhanaulti. You know you are approaching Dhanaulti when the vegetation starts growing thicker. You can spot deodar and pine trees along the roads. The red rhododendron flowers are an absolute treat.

There are many small hotels in Dhanaulti. We had a look at one and then decided that it would indeed be a shame to stay in a concrete room even after coming all the way from Mussourie to go closer to nature. Our driver took us to the “Eco Hut” maintained by the Dhanolti Eco Tourism and Eco Development Committee. The Garhwali guy at the entrance initially refused to give a room citing no vacancy. After applying a few selling (in this case, buying) skills that I’ve been trained on for the last 10 months, we landed the four of us a room. And we were glad to have got this room. Set right amidst the deodar trees, this place is indeed a nature lover’s (or for that matter, any lovers’) paradise. Made of bamboo, this place is as close to nature as you can get. The water is solar heated and the “street lighting” is solar powered. It was 6:00 in the evening and we decided to have a look at the Eco Park – the only tourist destination. The place is a good spot to start birding though we didn’t have the time to go birding.

When the attendant at the gate insisted that the park was closed and that he couldn’t keep it open any longer, we finally came out and spotted the favourite snack of the hills – Maggi – being made right outside. The guy, Kishore Rana, a Garhwali who ran this shop as a side business in the tourist season, was a potato and peas farmer. After gorging on two plates of Maggi each, we decided to retire for the night. After having a simple dinner of parathas and a lot of gossip, none of us knew when we slept off.

The morning was bright and sunny. The early morning sunlight on teh snow-capped hills in the distance was an absolute beauty. We decided the forest merited a walk. After around an hour of strolling through the rhododendron and the extremely tall deodar trees, we came back to Mr. Rana (oh yes, yet again) for a cup of masala ginger tea. The hot water in the cottage was indeed a pleasant surprise and after quick bath, we proceeded to Tehri. More on Tehri later...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Trial By Media

It was a chilly morning of February 22nd in the year 2006. However, the chill that went through the ToI reader’s body had almost nothing to do with the cold. It was the headline – the hard hitting – “No One Killed Jessica”. When no one killed Jessica, why was she not alive - because police coudn't catch 'No One' and the prosecution couldn't prosecute 'No One'. Time for some media action… And 5 years later – as we now relive the story of the power of the media through the much acclaimed, “No One Killed Jessica” (henceforth, NOKJ), I was left thinking – who will monitor the monitors of democracy?

No, I’m not against the verdict sentencing Manu Sharma to rigorous life imprisonment – perhaps the media did get it right this time and the heinous crime deserved punishment. But, what if the media did not? As Warren Buffett put it very succinctly, “The rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” Looking back, I might say the media did a right thing by adopting an activist’s role and “bringing the guilty to justice”. But can the same be said about every future campaign that a media house takes up? I’d hate to even think of the ‘proof’s that India TV can get if they set out to brand me as the incarnation of Satan… Given their propensity to videograph ‘news’, they just might succeed!!!

Jokes apart, the movie poses some serious concerns. It is good to have the Indian democracy, long plagued by corruption, monitored by the Fourth Estate. But then, where do we draw the line. What if the media itself is corrupt? It is a no-brainer that the television is not philanthropy – it is serious business – business aimed at making profits. And nothing corrupts like money. Can the evidence presented by media be considered accurate? What if the context has been deleted/edited? As Will Smith said so in the “Enemy of The State”, “We've also come to realise that we need to monitor the people who are monitoring them...” But how?

NOKJ did one thing smart – they got the ball rolling. Ram Jethmalani might not be right in his judgement (or in many cases he has taken in recent past), but he is not too wrong when he says that this case was a trial by the media – the same media that created the ‘Prince’ out of just another child from hundreds who keep falling in manholes (many not so lucky) everyday, the same media that hailed the billionth child, Astha, while well ignoring so many others born at the same time across so many other hospitals in India. No malice against the media – I’m just concerned about the “selective news” that media chooses to telecast over prime-time.

At the end, well NOKJ did a great job in its portrayal of the positive (hopefully) role played by media in the entire Jessica Lal Murder Case – but just like TZP or 3-Idiots, it can tend to mislead the gullible Indian population into believing everything that media does is picture perfect. Judiciary might be slow – even cumbersome – even corrupt – but does have some good brains (if not the best) to help it chart its own course.

Just remember, for every Jessica Lal Murder Case that media helps to solve, there is a Barkha Dutt (and others) reporting live.


@Barkha – Just in case you are reading this, I’ve full respect for you but just feel there might have been a few lapses in Mumbai – but as you said so, “Praise and criticism are twins that travel together”.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cricket Crazy...

I have realized over years that I write only when I’m deeply moved. Today’s match more than just did that.

It initially built up an interest in me – its been a long time cricket managed to do that. Then it got me hooked – I skipped my evening snack because The Master was in sublime form and its just pure bliss to watch him smack those effortless boundaries off very good balls. Then I was left dismayed with the Indian batting’s yet another collapse – and terminated with a short run followed by a Run-Out. At that time I thought, “OK, would have contributed another 10-20 runs, so what…!!” It was a short 20-min break due to slow over-rate by the Englishmen. Another opportunity for a snack wasted.

Then the English started the onslaught on the hapless Indian bowling attack. Strauss matched The Lord shot to shot. Two great innings in a single day – now that is stuff that makes Indians crazy about this game. Then came the new Steve Bucknow for Indian cricket – the UDRS. Stupid Stupid Stooopid 2.5m rule. (Ok then, I’m an Indian first…!!!) Clear LBW given not-out because the impact was 2.5m away – what on earth does that show! The ball was not gonna suddenly rise in the air like the Golden Snitch… Well Ian Bell made the most use of that lifeline almost taking the game away from the Indians – the key word being “Almost”. Cramps did him in and he fell - Zaheer doing the trick.

I realized my dinner was not coming tonight but there was no way I was gonna get up at this juncture – surely not when India had just fond a lost gateway to salvation in the form of Bell’s wicket!!!

The next ball undid Strauss – this time UDRS was helpful (I told you – Indian First). If you were a heart patient, the roller coaster that followed was surely not meant for you. India suddenly had a sting in their stride and there was an impending twist in the “tail”. Piyush Chawla got into the act (though as the mystery unfolded, we realize his portrayal as the Indian Hero was not who we thought he was). Just then, out of nowhere came a (Black) Swann and smacked two sixes that brought the kingsmen back in the game. Chawala gave away two sixes in the penultimate over. And then, Shazad hit a first ball SIX…!!! And in the end – a TIE…!!!

That is indeed cricket at its best… Its 11 pm now and my stomach is gurgling – all that I might have had surely got digested by this time. I’ll cook some Maggi – that good old 2-minute snack that is the life savior for so many bachelors like me… Just yesterday, someone had remarked that this world cup was “Thanda”. Now its surely heated up…!!

P.S: Since 1999, every world cup there has been a tie... Started with that famous SA v/s Aus in 1999. Then the less-famous SL v/s SA in 2003. Last time too there was one with Ireland v/s Zim... The trend continues...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Long Distance never works...

Finally, I broke up. It was a long-distance relationship that I had thought would last though it was destined to always be long-distance. It went well when we were together. There were fights and misunderstandings but nothing everlasting.

The clock ticked and I had to move on. Differences appeared. These differences were not yet crevices threatening to open up. As always, in a long distance relation, there appears a third person (let’s call X12). Now this third person may not be as dear to my first love (let’s call X11), but yes, he was right there and I was away. The worst part, the third person was also my own!

Now X11 thought I was getting too close to X12, that I was feeding him info about X11’s plans. X12 was new and gullible and well frankly – too gullible – such was the nature of our relation. Well, quite obviously, I sided with X11 and played on the gullibility of X12 – I knew it would all reveal itself. For a good ten days, X12 was left wondering if he had been mistaken and signed up for a “joy-ride” to hell - and partly because I sided with X11. X11 thought X12 knew of the plans through me and declared me a rogue lover. :(

Well, all did reveal itself. X11’s joy of the reveal was dampened because of my proximity with X12. X12, well he was furious too – for I sided with X11 despite having been in a much longer relation with X12.

And now, X11 has broken up with me (or in other words, "ppl were ready to kill you"), X12, well our relation was really short-lived after the reveal.

And here I’m, having learnt a very important lesson, LONG DISTANCE NEVER WORKS.