Wednesday, June 29, 2005


"Trrrrrrrr!" Pest-o-flash at work - in a vegetarian hotel.

Well, that was an attempt at a quick tale. If you want to read really good ones, check out Ammani's work. Ammani vaazhga!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Beware of dogs!

Yesterday on a drowsy trip back from Mahabs, I hit upon the one thing India needs so very desperately right now. And that is more dogs - watchdogs to watch the government's activities and reports and provide an unbiased review of the government's performance in various fields. Something like what ACLU does in the field of human rights in USA. Come to think of it, now is probably the right time for India to build such organizations - with the Right to Info Act coming into effect soon, it should be feasible for the government to be grilled thoroughly and for some more transparency in our governance structures.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Differential pricing issues

A few months ago Amit Varma had written about an email from Karthik about whether entry fee to tourist sites should necessarily be the same for Indians and foreigners. I had found nothing wrong in this differential pricing for 2 reasons.

1. It is becoming an accepted practice around the world to have differential pricing of goods.
2. Foreigners can usually afford to pay the dollar charges.
3. From a different perspective, the diff pricing was a way of charging foreigners more for them to relish our cultural heritage, while Indians arent expected to shell out that much money to experience what is essentially their own.

Not all would agree with my reasoning, but after yesterday's trip to Mahabs I'm convinced there should NOT be differential pricing at tourist sites. Reason? Nothing to do with the fairness of charging different prices per se. But the fact that this rule provides extra discretionary powers to the babu sitting at the counter distributing tickets. This babu in Mahabs was demanding a Bengali tourist family to either pay the dollar rate, or provide proof of their citizenship. It was only when someone who knew the local language Tamil intervened that the babu backed off - albeit grudgingly. As it turned out, the someone who intervened was me.

Later we guyz had a good laugh coz two of my accompanying friends had been staying in US for the past two years, and will probably do so for the next 4-5 yrs at least. And one of them was in his shorts! Guess the babu didnt notice that. :) Of course, I did take credit for having pre-empted the babu from asking my friends for proof of Indianness by having intervened in the Bengali family's case. Sadly enough, my friends refused to buy that for the simple reason that I am a manager now. :-(

Emergency, eh?

Click here to read a nice article on our seemingly collective amnesia of the Emergency period. To quote:

If the RSS is being held guilty of the murder of Gandhiji, why do we not hold the Congress guilty of the murder of democracy? If it is not enough for the RSS to express regret over what Nathuram Godse did, why is it enough for Indira Gandhi (and last year, Sonia Gandhi) to express similar “regret”?

For another insightful article on the Emergency, click here.

Both links via Amit Varma.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Why Globalize?

One of the main reasons I started reading Friedman was to understand why countries should globalize - and who better to tell me than one of the most staunch proponents of globalization. But some 200 odd pages into The Lexus and The Olive Tree, I'm rather disappointed. The answers Friedman provided to my question were something to the extent that

1. Everyone else does it, so you too should.
2. That's how you get your economy to grow at high rates.

The first statement is possibly the worst kind of logic I've ever heard. It can barely even termed as "logic". Its implicit assumption is that one is not intelligent enough to make a decision for oneself, and it works better if I choose to follow the herd. As for the second line of reasoning, later in the book Friedman does a good job of explaining how your economy could get screwed a lot faster once globalized.

What I have come to understand from Friedman so far is that Globalization is a high-risk high-return strategy (and estimating the risk is next to impossible). So if a society/country is risk-averse, why should it go for globalization? Friedman, are you listening? (Note: Answers to this question in the comments section will not be appreciated :p )

Its funny that I have such a bad feeling towards globalization when my job has been made possible by this very thing! But I cant help but think of that 40 year old 12th pass Manikandan who works as a driver in the State owned public transport service and sends his children to "convent schools" in the hope that they would rise up in the social hierarchy. What happens to all that when his corporation is privatised, and when he'll probably lose his job? Alan Greenspan and Thomas Friedman would probably answer the question with a standard reply: "It is going to be difficult for people. But what we need to do is to retrain them with the skills they need to provide value in the new world order". Greenspan did say something similar during the outsourcing debate. But I have come to believe that no one has any clue about what these skills are, or how to get 40-50 yr olds to learn new skills when their unemployment status would've already badly hit their family's economic position?

Finally, there's just one question in my mind. If one knows the stick is real and a very heavy one at that, and the carrot looks extremely hazy and doubtful why will he decide to live according to that system? Won't he just revolt against the system?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Good timepass

Click here.

Profit-making PSU privatization

In the Mani Shankar Aiyar interview I mentioned in the previous post, a question that was posed to him was regarding his stated opinion on why profit-making PSUs shouldnt be privatized now. He made a convincing case on how PSUs that are chronically loss-making need to be privatized first. If a private sector enterprise believes that this sick PSU is sick because of mis-management, and subsequent infusion of capital/technology can "heal" the company then the govt should go ahead and privatize it. In fact, that is the core reason to privatize any company. Of course, he did say that the government needs to move along the spectrum - thereby admitting that profit-making PSUs could be privatized, but not right now.

As one who didnt realise why the "leftists" were cribbing about privatization of profit-making PSUs, this makes a lot of sense - or as some would like to say: MHFS!

Labour issues

I was watching this program yesterday on Headlines Today - dont remember what it was called. Vir Sanghvi and 2 other journalists were quizzing Mani Shankar Aiyar, and one of the questions posed to him was how the government could handle privatisation in the face of what the journalist mentioned as "labour issues".

My take on this: Two ways to do it. Either have a determined government to carry out such steps in spite of popular opposition - like Amma did (though she was forced to retract them all). Or provide the labour class sufficient opportunities outside the public sector, that are more attractive than their current jobs. Make it easier for entrepreneurs and MNCs to do business in the country. In other words, liberalize.

Hadnt quite thought of this when I started typing this post, but looks like I've concluded that liberalization of the existing private sector will help a government privatize its units.

Saturday, June 18, 2005



You've been tagged! Now give us the gen on you and find some losers to tag! :D

(I was tagged by Diatha...)

Number of books I own:
Hardly any.. but of late been on a meteoric rise :)

Presently reading:
The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman

In the pipeline:
The World is Flat, Friedman
Maximum City, Suketu Mehta

Recently Read:
"Being Indian", Pavan Varma
"Rich Dad, Poor Dad", Robert Kiyosaki
"America's Secret War", George Friedman

Two of my favourites:
"Fountainhead", Ayn Rand (Shh.. Vishy :)) )
"To Kill a Mocking Bird", Harper Lee

I choose to tag

Chilli I gez SK will be up there on your list. So you may choose to ignore SK and list other books you like :p
Sudheer aka Fart

Biased reporting

Originally uploaded by The_Other.
I've gotten pained quite often by the way news channels editorialize their news items, and also twist facts to fit into their line of thinking. Here's a sample I found on Google News wherein 3 different sites present the same news in completely different shades of grey. I give up!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Surprising profundity

I was recently chatting with someone when the profundity of what I said stumped me :))

Me: i remember being very confused a lot abt wot i'm goin to do with my life
Me: i made sm kinda conscious decision to take life as it comes along.. and think short-term if long-term is too hazy..
Me: mebbe i'm stating the obvious here.. but wot i'm trying to get at is tat.. dont wait for long term stuff to get clearer
Me: dont lose ur present expecting to meet your future..

Its so bloody easy advising others about life and phil. Wish it was as easy figuring it out for myself. Damn it!

A complete person

Thomas Friedman:
You cannot be a complete person alone. You can be a smart person alone. You can be a rich person alone. But you cannot be a complete person alone. For that you must be part of, and rooted in, an olive grove.

How very true! For those who havent read it yet, the above is a quote from 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree' - a book on globalization. Friedman has recently come up with a sequel - The World is Flat, but 30 pages into this book I am floored by Friedman's incisive thought process. Given the sea change my impression of Friedman has seen since I started reading TLOT, I guess he does a nice job of de-marketing himself in his regular NYT columns :p

God bless Adi! :)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Being Indian

The book was recommended very highly by Vishy. And well... just like so many other things in life, Vishy and I dont share the same opinion on this as well. The book presents some interesting insights into explaining why Indians behave the way they do. But where it fails - and a resounding failure at that - is in explaining how the 21st century will be India's (which is the stated aim of the book).

Overall, a thank you to Pavan Varma for writing the book, but would rate it only at a 4 on 10.

Interestingly, I believe the book was made possible by the author's stints abroad as a diplomat. Only reinforces the funda that to figure out stuff about something you are a part of, you've got to get out and get the outsider's point-of-view.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Vasundhara Das...

Just one word for her voice - "wow!" .. which isnt actually a word :)

Currently hooked on to Kannum Kannum Nokia from Anniyan.

Lyrics be damned! Chilli would agree :p

My very own public rest-room door

Finally a definition of blogs that I could relate to :p

Deep Throat speaks out

Well, the Deep Throat has been unmasked. Interestingly, it was the Deep Throat itself who did it. To quote an article from yesterday's edition of NYT:

The Vanity Fair article, written by a Felt family friend and lawyer, John D. O'Connor, portrays a polite but persistent dialogue between the Felt family and Mr. Woodward in recent years over who should control the rights (and benefits) to such a sensational story.

In encouraging her father to tell his own story, Mr. Felt's daughter, Joan, spoke of the money it might make to help pay tuition bills for her children. For his part, the article says, Mr. Woodward, who has built a lucrative career as a best-selling author, had expressed repeated concerns about whether Mr. Felt, his memory fading and faculties diminished, was really in a position to understand what he was doing.

Woodward must have felt real bad at not being given the opportunity to reveal the identity of Deep Throat, but he was cornered by his own promise to Deep Throat to maintain his anonymity.

Reminded me of an interesting point raised in a book I recently read - The New New Journalism (Thanks Adi - for the book). The point being debated was whether a journalist should be willing to pay a source in return for the scoop. On the one hand, it would be tantamount to bribing the source - and hence undermining his credibility - while on the other hand, it can be seen as an exploitation of the source by the journalist. For instance, in the case of Deep Throat, Woodward became a world-wide celebrity and champion of journalism by his expose; and also promptly wrote a book about the same. Agreed that it was Deep Throat's own wish to remain anonymous, but the following sentence from an article in Washington Post today made me wonder if Deep Throat would've made a lot more money if he wasnt anonymous.

In his own memoir, "The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside," which received almost no attention when it was published in 1979, five years after President Richard M. Nixon's resignation, Felt angrily called this a "White House-Justice Department cabal."

*Emphasis mine*

Read the full article here. (link might require registration)

So in effect, Deep Throat lost quite a lot of money! And so he is now convinced by his daughter to claim his rightful 15 minutes of non-anonymous fame. Not to be outdone, Woodward publishes an article on the history of his relation with Felt in today's WP (Link same as above). Now that the shackles of anonymity have been removed, maybe Woodward would write another book and make more money. :p

I'd guess that Woodward had written this article quite some time ago, and was waiting for Felt to die so that he could come out with yet another scoop. So sad that things didnt turn out the way he had planned.

Btw, Felt might just make up for the lost money. :))