And the meek shall Inherit

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Why it Matters

India lost the one-day cricket series to Pakistan miserably and an exasperated nation groans and throws its arms up and casts its eyes skyward yet again, for some cricketing messiah to come along and lead us to our cricketing salvation. This situation with Indian cricket has for long been like ‘Groundhog Day’, different day just the same old shit.

How many times do we have to suffer the ignominy of defeat, nay, abject bludgeoning into submission by lesser teams and how many times we shrug and sigh with a ‘chalta hai’ attitude, maybe with the eternal hope of redemption for some other day? That day of reckoning never comes. We almost get there i.e. so called self proclaimed world beaters, but never quite get over the hump. Always the promise of becoming the next big thing, but never really delivering on that promise, seems to have become our tagline. At this point in time the average on-the-street cricket fan does not ask for world domination in the sport, but just an iota of redemption and just the satisfaction that the team he roots for lost out trying its very best. Is that too much to ask from the privileged eleven, selected over 1 billion of the rest of their countrymen?

Why have we resigned ourselves to accept anything less than superlative effort from our cricketing Gods? They owe their exalted status to the multitudes that worship them, and the least they can do is grow a spine and attempt a decent fight back, leave alone try and win. We have grown to live with mediocrity, even cherish it and raise it to exalted levels, only to be disappointed every single time. Look around you, our politicians and leaders are mediocre at best, so are our sportsmen, our businesses and the products they cater are mediocre, so are our scientists and other intellectuals, our movies, actors, singers, directors are simply pedestrian. What do we really excel at ? A nation of individual brilliance, but collective mediocrity.

Well-wishers suggest that its time we let go of cricket since it will bring us nothing but abject heartburn and there is actually very little to look forward to from our ‘boys in blue’. But how do you let go? Growing up all you knew was cricket, because we didn’t have access to better facilities in other sports. Summer and winter holidays were spent in the singular pursuit of cricket and following the national team with a fanatical zeal was the full time preoccupation of the teeming millions of aspiring Sunny/Vishy or Kapils. How do you let go ? Our avaricious, spineless and decadently wealthy cricketers owe it to these adoring hordes to put up some sense of fight, provide escape from reality, give them some heroes, no matter how fractured, they can look up to and expect not to be let down spectacularly .

For every kid who wields a bat carved out of a tree branch, for the thousands who pursue cricket on the numerous dusty, hot, humid maidans and parks all over the country, for every panwalla going about his work with his ears glued to the radio, for every passerby who asks ‘Score kya hua ?’, for college kids following on the internet, for office workers taking sick days off on match days ,for every mother who waits hours on end for her son to finish coaching camp, for every son who has been perfecting the cover drive or straight drive forgoing his breakfast and lunch, for ever NRI who gives up a good portion of their nightly slumber as well as a good portion of their paychecks to follow their cricketers, for every hour that retired folks spend agonizing over the performance from the previous day, these cricketers owe it to all of them the right to hold their heads high for something that have dedicated a good portion of their life. The common ‘vada pav’ eating guy, perennially toiling man-on-the-street can’t be robbed of his last vestiges of escapism from reality. How do you let go?

When the Englishman throws us off the train, in our country, for not being white, we didn’t fight back, when despite being one of the most populous nation and largest democracy on earth we don’t hold any sway in the UN, yet we don’t fight back, our politicians and leaders screw us over, we watch in muted disbelief, our spiritual gurus and maulvis abandon us, we suffer it in silence, then what do we really stand for? A life spent at the altar of mediocrity. Don’t we deserve better?

Chuck the Tendulkar’s and the Dada’s out of the team. Let them go back to their restaurants, advertisements and movie starlets or whatever else they choose to pursue. Choose a team who never quits and then back this team against all odds. Give them time and a set deadline to perform after which, if they do not deliver, start rebuilding all over again. Individual milestones should not hold any place in team sports. After all what have we got to lose? We couldn’t possibly fare any worse.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Food for Thought

Check out this bizarre story about cannibalism from Germany here. Apparently this guy had a fetish for human flesh and he advertised for someone to “slaughter and eat” and what is even more astonishing that some idiot responded to the ad, and was killed and eaten by Germany’s very own Hannibal Lector. Before killing him, the first night the cannibal cut off the victim’s penis and fried it for both to eat. I wonder how the dinner conversation must have gone


Victim: So, how do you like the taste of my penis?

Cannibal: Well I don’t care for it much. I expected it to be hard and crisp, but it’s soft and fluffy

Victim: Try it with some Tabasco, maybe it will taste better

Cannibal: Maybe I should also have your arse on the side to go with your penis, you imbecil. Just shut up and eat.

Really morose.

In another story reported by The Hindustan Times, a man in Lucknow started shedding his clothes on the streets and was performing the cabaret in his underwear. A crowd gathered around him and when one of the girls laughed at him, he pulled out a big knife and stabbed her bosom, infuriated to see her laughing. One wonders, where he would have hidden the "big" knife while performing his erotic contortions!!! Seems like the loony’s just keep stumbling out of the woodwork.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Distinguish Yourself

Check this series out on Leadership and ‘How to Distinguish yourself’ by Rajesh Setty here. Rajesh Setty is the President and CEO of CIGNEX a software services company and author of the book ‘Beyond Code’. In this series titled ‘Distinguish Yourself’, he has laid out different ways to achieve your objectives in 20 pithy steps, and some of his doctrines are relevant to any contemporary professional for career and personal advancement.

Also a personal motivator is this article on the essence of leadership by N R Narayana Murthy, Chairman and Chief Mentor, Infosys Technology, which was published in rediff.com. Always makes for inspiring reading.

A leader is an agent of change, and progress is about change. In the words of Robert F Kennedy, 'Progress is a nice word; but change is its motivator.'

Leadership is about raising the aspirations of followers and enthusing people with a desire to reach for the stars. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi created a vision for independence in India and raised the aspirations of our people.

Leadership is about making people say, 'I will walk on water for you.' It is about creating a worthy dream and helping people achieve it.

Robert Kennedy, summed up leadership best when he said, 'Others see things as they are and wonder why; I see them as they are not and say why not?'

Adversity

A leader has to raise the confidence of followers. He should make them understand that tough times are part of life and that they will come out better at the end of it. He has to sustain their hope, and their energy levels to handle the difficult days.

There is no better example of this than Winston Churchill. His courageous leadership as prime minister for Great Britain successfully led the British people from the brink of defeat during World War II. He raised his people's hopes with the words, 'These are not dark days; these are great days -- the greatest days our country has ever lived.'

Never is strong leadership more needed than in a crisis. In the words of Seneca, the Greek philosopher, 'Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.'

Values

The leader has to create hope. He has to create a plausible story about a better future for the organisation: everyone should be able to see the rainbow and catch a part of it.

This requires creating trust in people. And to create trust, the leader has to subscribe to a value system: a protocol for behavior that enhances the confidence, commitment and enthusiasm of the people.

Compliance to a value system creates the environment for people to have high aspirations, self esteem, belief in fundamental values, confidence in the future and the enthusiasm necessary to take up apparently difficult tasks. Leaders have to walk the talk and demonstrate their commitment to a value system.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, 'We must become the change we want to see in the world.' Leaders have to prove their belief in sacrifice and hard work. Such behavior will enthuse the employees to make bigger sacrifices. It will help win the team's confidence, help leaders become credible, and help create trust in their ideas.

Enhancing trust

Trust and confidence can only exist where there is a premium on transparency. The leader has to create an environment where each person feels secure enough to be able to disclose his or her mistakes, and resolves to improve.

Investors respect such organisations. Investors understand that the business will have good times and bad times. What they want you to do is to level with them at all times. They want you to disclose bad news on a proactive basis. At Infosys, our philosophy has always been, 'When in doubt, disclose.'

Governance

Good corporate governance is about maximising shareholder value on a sustainable basis while ensuring fairness to all stakeholders: customers, vendor-partners, investors, employees, government and society.

A successful organisation tides over many downturns. The best index of success is its longevity. This is predicated on adhering to the finest levels of corporate governance.

At Infosys, we have consistently adopted transparency and disclosure standards even before law mandated it. In 1995, Infosys suffered losses in the secondary market. Under Indian GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), we were not required to make this information public. Nevertheless, we published this information in our annual report.

Fearless environment

Transparency about the organisation's operations should be accompanied by an open environment inside the organisation. You have to create an environment where any employee can disagree with you without fear of reprisal.

In such a case, everyone makes suggestions for the common good. In the end everyone will be better off.

On the other hand, at Enron, the CFO was running an empire where people were afraid to speak. In some other cases, the whistle blowers have been harassed and thrown out of the company.

Managerial remuneration

We have gone towards excessive salaries and options for senior management staff. At one company, the CEO's employment contract not only set out the model of the Mercedes the company would buy him, but also promised a monthly first-class air ticket for his mother, along with a cash bonus of $10 million and other benefits.

Not surprisingly, this company has already filed for bankruptcy.

Managerial remuneration should be based on three principles:

  • Fairness with respect to the compensation of other employees;
  • Transparency with respect to shareholders and employees;
  • Accountability with respect to linking compensation with corporate performance.

Thus, the compensation should have a fixed component and a variable component. The variable component should be linked to achieving long-term objectives of the firm. Senior management should swim or sink with the fortunes of the company.

Senior management compensation should be reviewed by the compensation committee of the board, which should consist only of independent directors. Further, this should be approved by the shareholders.

I've been asked, 'How can I ask for limits on senior management compensation when I have made millions myself?' A fair question with a straightforward answer: two systems are at play here. One is that of the promoter, the risk taker and the capital markets; and the other is that of professional management and compensation structures.

One cannot mix these two distinct systems, otherwise entrepreneurship will be stifled, and no new companies will come up, no progress can take place. At the same time, there has to be fairness in compensation: there cannot be huge differences between the top most and the bottom rung of the ladder within an organisation.

PSPD model

A well run organisation embraces and practices a sound Predictability-Sustainability-Profitability-Derisking (we call this the PSPD model at Infosys) model. Indeed, the long-term success of an organisation depends on having a model that scales up profitably.

Further, every organisation must have a good derisking approach that recognises, measures and mitigates risk along every dimension.

Integrity

Strong leadership in adverse times helps win the trust of the stakeholders, making it more likely that they will stand by you in your hour of need. As leaders who dream of growth and progress, integrity is your most wanted attribute.

Lead your teams to fight for the truth and never compromise on your values. I am confident that our corporate leaders, through honest and desirable behaviour, will reap long-term benefits for their stakeholders.

Two mottos

In conclusion, keep in mind two Sanskrit sentences: Sathyannasti Paro Dharma (there is no dharma greater than adherence to truth); and Satyameva jayate (truth alone triumphs). Let these be your motto for good corporate leadership.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Go Light your bulb...Swades, We the People

We watched Ashutosh Gowarikar’s movie Swades over the course of the past weekend and both Seemz and myself were sufficiently impressed with the storyline, narration, technical quality and the ensemble cast of the movie. Definitely a refreshing good variant story compared to the regular run of the mill trash being proliferated by Bollywood these days And for once, the King of Hamming and overacting, Shah Rukh Khan has done a commendable job in the lead role as Mohan Bhargav, a scientist working at NASA, who designs satellites that monitor weather patterns from space. Shah Rukh has acted this role with sincerity and brings a measure of conviction to his character and holds back just that much in this role, which would have otherwise rendered his performance ‘over-the-top’, like the rest of his Chopra/Johar movies. What triumphs over everything is the script and if one were to take away the jingoistic, xenophobic and socialistic Bollywood pandering, it tells a good story about the scientist who finds his calling in life. Though this movie has been labeled too preachy by the media, we cannot look away from the fact about the story of a country that “could have been” viz. Mera Bharat Mahan. What we get fed incessantly by the media is that we are this great rising economic power which is well on its way towards economic global domination in the near future . This is what was being tom-tom’d by all and sundry since the 80’s with the software revolution and liberalization brought about by Rajiv Gandhi/ Sam Piroda and the likes. Then why is it that on the other hand we still are considered one of the poorest nations on the face of this earth ?

Check out Dilip’s D’souza’s excellent article in Rediff on the poverty situation in India as it currently stands here. Places like Bihar, areas of UP, Orissa and many other poorer states in the country are still waiting for the “Green” revolution, let alone the technology revolution. Be it economic progress, sports, warfare, technology, holding sway over world politics, we seem to be falling short in every single endeavor. Why ? Corruption is rife in the country, very few to do the right things, too many mouths to feed compounded with leaders and the bureaucracy inclined to line their own pockets and play petty politics, has left us where we are today, dirt poor. Just buzzwords like ‘India Shining’, economic superpower or Asian tigers, does not a great nation make.

Pardon the Digression, here since yours truly also falls into the mold of the hypocrite, armchair preachy pontificator who has no qualms in dispensing jingoistic wisdom in favor of getting ones hands dirty. But it is a yeoman’s effort for an individual since there are too many constraints that conspire against a single entity. What is needed are a few hundred thousand Mohan Bhargav’s, working at the grassroots and doing the right things so that many more light bulbs may be lit in many more houses all across the great country of ours. The story for Swades was based on a true story of two engineers from Kerala who helped bring electricity to some remote village in Maharashtra. This is how we can get India shining, I guess, one remote village at a time.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sleeping with the Fishes

Sidharth sometimes gets up screaming and bawling in the middle of night, maybe because its is too hot/cold for him or on account of a nightmare or for some unimaginable reason that I care to comprehend, at 2 or 3 AM in the morning. But we sure do hear him wail and he lets us know in no uncertain terms that he is not happy. This does not happen often, but the nights that he does get up, I can safely kiss a few good hours of my precious sleep goodbye.

Sidharth sleeps next to us in his crib, despite the fact that his room is ready for his occupancy with the sky, stars and clouds painted and completely child-proofed, his mother is unwilling severe the umbilical cord yet. So it falls on my onerous shoulders to lull him back to sleep, whenever he does wake up. Ah, but that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. A few months ago just pacing around in the aisle with his head resting on my shoulders would lull him to sleep and soon I would feel his rhythmic, gentle snores on my shoulders. After which I would gingerly lay him down in his bed and cover him with his blanket, thereafter he would sleep peacefully till morning. As months have passed, he dourly refuses to give in to sleep by just pacing up and down the aisle. Subsequently I have tried to rock him to sleep on our rocking chair. To no avail. Sing lullaby’s to him gently. Made the crying even worse. Tried to feed him warm milk, from his bottle of course. He’d contemptuously dismiss the bottle of milk aside, as if to admonish ‘Could’nt you think of anything better , you git ?’. Finally one early morning I discovered that he falls asleep to the sounds of gentle waves and fish bubbles. Eureka…jackpot.

Our computer has a screensaver of fishes of various sizes and hues swimming and periodically a mean looking fish makes its way to the centre of the screen and gravely intones ‘Did you backup today ? Did you ? Did you ?’. Well at 2:00 AM in the morning, the last thing I need to be reminded is about backups. Nevertheless when Sidharth’s crying gets out of the control and the pacing, the rocking and feeding does not work, I make my way to the computer. Balancing a wailing baby precariously on one shoulder, and sidestepping the land mine Sidharth toys strewn all over the house, we make it to the computer room, which is on a floor below the bedroom. And once we make our way to the computer, I run the screen saver program. It is dark outside and the entire world is asleep, well at least this side of the hemisphere is sleeping. Most times this technique works effectively. Either sitting in my arms while facing the computer and looking at the fishes and lulled by the sounds of the waves, Sidharth goes to sleep or he turns over and rests his head on my shoulder followed by baby snores after some time. This technique have never ever failed me. So I gingerly tiptoe my way back to the bedroom, place him back in his crib and cover him very delicately with his blanket, and go back to sleep. It’s still very dark outside.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Vocabulary

Well, Sidharth has moved well beyond his go-go-gaga lexicon and moved into actual word formation, but discerning his language takes a bit of work. We have compiled a list of words that he uses regularly and what we think he means by those words. Sometimes we win and other times we lose and it takes a while to figure out what he’s trying to convey. Here is his current verbal glossary:

Chee lello – Cereal

Meee – Milk

I Shee – Ice Cream

Mishnicole – Miss Nicole (his supervisor at the day care)

Effetti – Elephant

Favatti – Butterfly

CheeYouBye – See You Bye

Fuck – Fork (or at least we think that’s what he is saying)

Spoo - Spoon

Diapel – diaper

Cow Moo – Cow, which inadvertently is followed by the sound a cow makes

Fog – Frog

Ship – sheep

Boat – Bird

Coo – Cool, a new word he’s picked from his daycare

Goo – Good

Haaushe – Horse


There are several others words which don’t readily come to mind and of course, he also speaks in our mother tongue Kannada as well, with the same propensity for misinterpretation by an onlooker, as in English. He pronounces his friend Kaaamini’s name as Kmini which literally means “bitch” or something offensive to that effect, in Hindi, and no amount of prompting has persuaded him to change this pronunciation. What’s come from his limited list of inane babble is that when I’m asked what I am going to have for breakfast, I promptly reply, without much thought or a pause, “Chee lello”.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Murphys Law's for IT

I came across this on one of the IT blog's and though that it was excellent. These are Murphy's law for IT by Tim Bryce.

INTRODUCTION

Bryce's Laws on IRM was preceded by Murphy's Laws which originated in the 1940's from the American military. The axiom, "If anything can go wrong it will," is perhaps the best known law attributed to Murphy. The following is a list of "Murphy's Laws" pertaining to systems and technology. Enjoy!

"Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand."

"If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization."

"An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing."

"All's well that ends."

"A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost."

"To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer."

"A computer makes as many mistakes in two seconds as 20 men working 20 years make."

"Nothing motivates a man more than to see his boss putting in an honest day's work."

"Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book."

"The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman."

"To spot the expert, pick the one who predicts the job will take the longest and cost the most."

"A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works."

"Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable."

"When all else fails, read the instructions."

"Any simple theory will be worded in the most complicated way."

"Build a system that even a fool can use and only a fool will want to use it."

"There is never time to do it right, but always time to do it over."

"Any given program, when running, is obsolete."

"If a program is useful, it will have to be changed."

"If a program is useless, it will have to be documented."

"The value of a program is inversely proportional to the weight of its output."

"Program complexity grows until it exceeds the capability of the programmer who must maintain it."

"Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."

"Make it possible for programmers to write programs in English, and you will find that programmers can not write in English."

"Any cool program always requires more memory than you have."

"When you finally buy enough memory, you will not have enough disk space."

"Disks are always full. It is futile to try to get more disk space. Data expands to fill any void."

"If a program actually fits in memory and has enough disk space, it is guaranteed to crash."

"If such a program has not crashed yet, it is waiting for a critical moment before it crashes."

"No matter how good of a deal you get on computer components, the price will always drop immediately after the purchase."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Office

I need my 30 minutes of ‘suspension of belief’ dose every day, be it in the form of Yahoo Bridge or Seinfeld reruns or Jeopardy ‘Tournament of Champions’. Can’t wait for Ken Jennings, the undisputed reigning monarch of Jeopardy with total earnings of approx. $2.5 million on Jeopardy, to get back into the tournament. Last week while flipping channels, I happened to stumble upon the new NBC serial ‘The Office’ and judging by the past two episodes, they have a winner on their hands. It’s been a while since I have watched TV serials and barring Seinfeld, during its first few good years with Larry David and the absolutely juvenile, moronic ‘Tom Green Show’ on MTV, have I found a TV show this funny. The plot for this show is a copy from a hit British TV show, but I believe the format is pretty much the same, just with more Americanized plot lines.

The show has an excellent cast with Steve Carell, who plays Richard the Regional Manager of an office supplies company. Dwight, played by Rainn Wilson, plays the Assistant to the Regional Manager, but is actually the office bully. Dwight is the bright spot in this show and his paranoia and over-bearing behavior, leads to funny situations and funnier interaction amongst the office staff. In the last episode Dwight gets the wind of corporate downsizing and just to be kept abreast of all the water cooler gossip, moves the water cooler next to his desk. He also fashions a Survivor style “alliance” with one of the sales guy and plots to get someone from HR or finance fired, just to save his own job. While all this happening, the boss Richard, is blissfully unaware of everything that is going on in the office and to boost the morale at the workplace decides to throw a birthday party for an employee whose birthday is actually a few months away. At the birthday party he makes fun of her hysterectomy, divorce and advanced age, while the rest of office suffers with looks of disbelief. He also signs up for a Cerebral Palsy Walkathon with an employee, pledging $25, which he doesn’t realize is $25 for every mile the kid walks. When he does realize his gaffe, he tries to rescind his donation, but the employee refuses to make that change. Extremely funny show with great characters. The best part is if you could relate each of those TV characters to some of the people at your own workplace. It makes the show that much more watchable.

Bawaji

Cyrus Broacha is one of the wackiest Bawa’ji I have ever experienced in my life. Most Bawas, in my opinion, are a little bit crazy, though the degree of lunacy greatly varies from Peston to Rustom’s. The ones in the Parsiwadas and the Parsi colony’s definitely are a notch or two higher on the ‘yeda’ scale than their non-colony brethrens. The eccentricities of most of the Bawas are harmless with no malicious intent whatsoever , which definately makes them unique and fun to be around. I vividly remember my walks to the mutton shop every Sunday morning, which was better accessible via a short-cut through the Parsi colony. There was this crazy old Bawaji with blood shot eyes behind thick soda water glasses , dressed in his loose white pajamas with the naada hanging outside, a transparent tunic and a cap on his head, who would sometimes come running towards me yelling ‘Saala, Bhenchod, meri beti pe line marta hai’. And I would just take off and run like crazy, for my life followed by the crazy Bawaji, stray dogs, some kids who’d join the fun and all. Never could I really figure out who this crazy old chap really was, and I don’t think he really even had a daughter. And there was Khushroo who lived in our apartment complex who would rain Karate chops and kicks on us if he was referred to as “Bawa”. Barring that single character flaw, he was otherwise, a pretty normal Bawaji.

Back to Cyrus Broacha, who would host the hilariously funny 'MTV Bakra' a long time ago. I still remember his dumbfounded look, when he got slapped on the streets of Bombay by some cabbie or rickshaw guy when he tried to play his prank on them. But these episodes were really, really good and the plots that he (or his writers) came up with were really ingenious and always in good intent. Check out this article that he has written in Mid-day about the Dancing Girls of Bombay. Vintage Broacha. Some boys just never grow up and become men. Thanks Cyrus for not growing up. We appreciate you….immensely.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Number Two

For those of you who enjoyed some specific toilet humor peeves from my ‘Ten Things that get my goat’, here’s another great piece on Loos by Nilanjana Joy in her Blog ‘Akhond of Swat’. Check out the hilarious article here. It's really well written.

This boys life

This week it will be almost three weeks since Sidharth started his daycare and by now he seems to have adjusted well to his new part-time surrounding. He broke his mother’s heart last week when he sauntered into the day care without looking back or letting off a wail at the prospect of his mother forsaking him with strangers, in his precocious mind. Sidharth just sauntered off towards his caretaker without so much as a look over his shoulder. And he broke his mother’s heart! All day Seemz kept on complaining about her son’s disloyalty and that he was now learning to get by without her. And I laughed. But he still waits expectantly in the afternoons and is ecstatic to be carried home by his anticipatory and even more ecstatic mother. Filial love.

We have also notice that Sidharth has been embolden manifolds on account of his interaction with other children at the daycare. We have not yet observed how he passes his time at the center yet, but going by his behavior at home it is assumed that he must be indulging himself in some full-bloodied hell-raising hair-tearing shenanigans, only as kids can. At home his demeanor is decidedly much more aggressive and he is extremely assertive in his wants, likes and dislikes. Also his interaction with other children has had a world of change. He seems more acceptable of other kids of his age around him and interacts with them either for harmonious collaborations or acrimonious fisticuffs, again only as kids can.

And the spitting, yikes, just never seems to stop. Spitting at the parents, at the wall, on the bed, at books, at toys, on the remote, inside shoes, outside shoes, its all engulfing. From vociferous, stern “Noooooooo” to grave warnings of timeouts seems to have little effects on this dastardly flavor-of-the-month inclination. If experienced parents are to be believed, this too shall pass. But I have my doubts. Just look at baseball players. Looks like they never stopped spitting. Maybe they started in somewhat a similar fashion! Other attempts to discipline him have met with little success. This little freight train of ours has left the station and hurtling down the tracks, taking our sanity with us, at least for some part pf the day. “Terrible Two’s” is what we take our consolation in, cus this too shall pass.

Incredibly Closer

Watched the movie 'Closer' by Mike Nichols this weekend. Magnanimous waste of time. Absolutely one of the most dysfunctional, myopic (sic), pretentious, duplicitous relationship movies I have ever seen. Story line is maybe true or applicable to ‘movie/rock stars’ or ‘Page 3’ lifestyle types, but for the rest of us economy class folks, this movie doesn’t fly. What a waste of four incredible talents, or three talents. I'm not that sure about Jude Law. Avoid the movie if at all possible since it’s not worth your time getting any ‘Closer’. Let me know if anyone differs from my opinion.

Also caught ‘The Incredibles’ with Sidharth over the weekend. Now that is a movie worth watching, even though the ending seems a tart stretched. We enjoyed it immensely.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Time to Stand up

Richard Dawkins, a Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University in his excellent collection of essays on hope, life science and love quotes a fellow scientist Douglas Adams on religion. The following paragraph, by the late Douglas Adams, exacerbates my views on futility of religion in our daily lives:

"Now, the invention of the scientific method is I’m sure we’ll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked. If it withstands the attack then it lives to fight another day, and if it doesn’t withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn’t seem to work like that. It has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? – because you’re not!’ If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down, you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on Saturday’, you say, ‘I respect that.’

The odd thing is, even as I am saying that I am thinking, ‘Is there an Orthodox Jew here who is going to be offended by the fact that I have said that?’ But I wouldn’t have thought ‘Maybe there’s somebody from the left wing or somebody from the right wing who subscribes to this view or the other in economics’ when I was making the other points. I just think, ‘Fine, we have different opinions’. But the moment I say something that has to do with somebody’s (I’m going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say, ‘No, we don’t attack that; that’s an irrational belief but no, we respect it.’

Why should it be that its perfectly legitimate to support the Labor party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows – but to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the universe..no, that’s holy ? What does that mean ? Why do we ring-fence that for any other reason other than we’ve just got used to doing so ? There’s no other reason at all, it’s just one of those things that crept into being and once that loop gets going its very, very powerful. So, we are used to not challenging religious ideas, but its interesting how much of a furor Richard creates when de does it! Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you’re not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn’t be.”

Just about everything that I believe about religion and all that mumbo jumbo. Agnostics of the world unite. Its time to stand up and be counted. More on this topic later. Watch this space.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Book Club

Over the past several years and many many books later I have felt this strong urge to share my thoughts on the books I read with someone or a group of people with eclectic reading preferences. Therefore in anticipation of intellectual simulation, and some good coffee and pleasant company, I ventured, rather apprehensively, to join a book club. This was a “blind date” kind of initiation to the club, whereby I responded to a message posted on the Indian community bulletin board. It has been well over 6 weeks that we have exchanged information about ourselves, but are still undecided about a name for the Book Club. Meeting the other members in person, which is scheduled for 17th April, is someting that I look forward to with great anticipation. The first book up for review is Lee Harper’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and it’s been a long time since I have regurgitated the exploits of Atticus Finch, Scout, Jem and Boo. Here’s an excerpt from one of my emails in a failed attempt to come up with a name for the Book Club. Apart from a few member’s stray comments, we are still pretty much nameless.

Thanks V for this link and the accompanying "deep" inquisition for
the book. And all this while I thought it was just wine and cheese
nibblings with some incoherent rambling about Atticus, Boo et all.
Hey what about the much prolonged moniker for the BC that has been
thrown back and forth for quite some time now? Looks like the enthu
is waning and I hope we can sustain this beyond Harper Lee and the
mockingbird road kill. I happened to read a review of 'Reading Lolita
in Tehran' and have added that to my "Imminent Reading" list. Here are
my humble suggestions for our plausible BC names
1. Books R Us...hehehe just couldn’t resist that
2. BOL (Books over Lattes) or BOWBOW (Books over wine, Blabber once Wasted)
3. Padosans....get it??? Sans Reading(Pado), not necessarily in that order
4. Curious George...just cuz I have to read this to my 20 months old
twice every day !!!
5. GAB - Gupshup about Bible...hallelujah

What is all of ur reading pleasures as of now ? I am currently reading
1. Magic Seeds - Naipaul
2. Blind Watchmaker - Dawkins
3. Mockingbird - Lee
4. Seizure - Cook
5. 5 ppl/heaven - Albom
and Curious George ofcourse...twice a day.

So dont just sit there, get these creative grey cells workin, hit the
reply all button and write something yaar.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ten things that get my goat (In no specific Order)

1. Userid and passwords for websites that don’t really warrant any security
2. Network passwords that have to be changed every 2 weeks. The new password cant ever match a part of the old password and should have a Greek letter, a capital letter, no special character, greater than 12 characters but less than 16,no names of Hindu gods, no names of movie actresses and one number. Arggggggggg…
3. People with long nose hair, sticking out like Rapunzel's tresses while they sermonize, with a straight face, the decline of hygiene at professional workplaces
4. Paid porn sites
5. Popup's from your browser which simply wont stop and spam mail
6. DVD’s that freeze when you get to the most intriguing part in the movie
7. Never ending TV infomercials, especially that guy who cooks chicken in his grill machine. And also those ads for Cialis, Levitra etc. and other erectile dysfunctional pills. If I can’t go on for 36 hours at a stretch, then why can some old impotent git have this luxury?
8. Whenever the missus says “See I told you so”, when she actually never did
9. The fact that you cannot transfer the phone numbers from your old cell phone to your new one directly
10. Guys who uses their cell phones while on the pot. I’m now forced to listen to your crap from both ends.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Portrait

We had our family portrait taken at JC Penny’s last Saturday, which is fast turning into an Americanesque ritual every year, and even more so after Sidharth’s birth. Despite the cold and wet conditions outside we put on our ostentatious Indian ethnic best to pose for the camera. Sidharth has a beautiful purple ‘Sherwani suit’, bought for his first birthday, which we are afraid he might outgrow very soon. So before we loose the opportunity to exact every measly cent of the handsomely tailored and decadently priced Sherwani, we decided to get its existence documented in the form of a portrait.

JC Penny’s is OK, but not as good a Babies R US, where they have different backgrounds and the studio is spacious and well-light. At Penny’s the studio’s were dingy and dark and we felt cramped. But not Sidharth, who was at his merry best. It truly amazes me how much mirth and laughter you can exact from a child with a fuzzy stuffed animal contorted around him. The photographer would mount the teddy on her head and Sidharth would bellow uproariously like he’s witnessing the best comedy on the face of this earth. Not once or twice or thrice but many times over. Simply amazing. And the photographer happily clicked away.

We also has a family portrait done where me and Seemz were asked to pose in various mercurial embraces, and for a minute I was wondering if the photographer had misunderstood the nature of the portraits we desired. But it all ended well and we should be getting our portraits on 23rd April, which will adorn some corner of our house to incessantly remind us in the days to come of “the way we were”. Whenever apt, I could be admonished by the lady of the house by judiciously pointing at the portrait “Look you need to lose some weight. See how you were then and look how you are now?”. I’m just not that crazy about family portraits.

Bollywood Hollywood

Over the past weekend, on account of cold, wet and balmy weather we were forced to stay indoor for the most part and managed to watch 2 movies that we received from Netflix, one Punjabi movie (sic) Veer-Zaara and M. Night Shyamalans ‘The Village’.

Veer-Zaara

Well, the less written about this movie the better. We more or less somnambulated through this supposedly magnum opus epic cross country love saga by Yash Chopra. There is only so many times that one can sit through hackneyed plot of boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy and girl romp through the countryside singing love songs only to realize later that the girl is actually betrothed to someone else. Boy will not have the girl without acquiescence from her family. Many weepy songs later, mounds of ‘besan-ladoos’ later, court battles later, teary, mouthy, melodramatic dialogues later boy meets his love, now a menopausal old nag and rekindles their once youthful romps in the countryside fields. Arggggg, Utter and complete waste of valuable and leisure time which could have been otherwise well spent watching nails grow or beans sprout. There is only so much of syrupy, back-slapping, goody-goody bonhomie that you can endure, without actually being acutely nauseated at regular intervals. Shah Rukh Khan, the reigning God of bollywood lacks sincerity and his performance is so superfluous and unimaginative, that it does not even merit any mention. Everything else was just as pedantry. Also since most of the dialogues were in Punjabi and coupled with an incredibly irate 20-month old, this movie was just pedestrian fare for me and Seemz. We had to suffer through movie in multiple sittings since it did not hold our interest for long spans of time.


The Village

We didn’t quite enjoy this movie as much as we could have because of a faulty DVD. During the end of the movie, the picture froze and we were forced to forward a few scenes which ruined the ending for us. Other than that this is an OK movie, which is not in the regular Shayamlanesque formula or the supernatural or the occult. Warning to those who have not seen the movie, that the suspense will be revealed in the ensuing description. The movie starts off slowly, about a community in rural Pennsylvania, living a meager existence, not different from the original Pilgrims. The villagers are haunted by some creatures that live in the woods that border it. The curiosity of the villagers is piqued by these creatures but they are also wary about incurring the wrath of these odious party-poopers. A blind girl Ivy, who also happens to be the village elder’s daughter (William Hurt), played brilliantly by Bryce Howard, falls for a young man (Joaquin Phoenix) who has an insatiable curiosity for these creatures outside his village. Certain circumstances bring the young man to his death bead and his blind lover must now cross the woods and fight the creatures to get to the town to fetch medicine for the man she loves. Her journey is tempered with self-doubts, fear and anxiety at every step and she not only has to encounter the bogeymen in her mind, but the creatures that accost her in the woods. The storyline for this movie is extraordinary, though the pace of the movie leaves much to be desired.

It is finally revealed that the Village resides in a modern-day wildlife preserve and the residents of the village have chosen to seclude themselves from the rest of the world after each one of them had lost someone they love dearly in some accident. Despite their search for a utopian life, the same actions and deception that doomed their life in the modern world plague them in their rustic life as well. Basically you can take the man out of the jungle, but cannot take the jungle out of the man. Though it starts off at a slow pace, this movie is a must watch and well worth the time.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Dance of Joy

Our yardstick to measure Sidharth’s health well-being is by gauging his reaction when I come back from work in the evenings. In the event I am greeted by a tiny human being with arms flapping wildly, eyes twinkling mischievously and shrill screams of unadulterated elation, we know that all’s well with him. If the little chap is just sprawled on the couch, with eyes glazed over, blank stare and a blah look, then it’s prudent to assume that there’s something amiss with him. The evening ‘dance of joy’ is a routine that I look forward to everyday and no matters whatever kind of pathetic day it has been at work, the weariness just drains away. Screaming at the top of his voice, he runs in circles, I assume being excited at the prospect of me returning home, for a few minutes and then settles down with his demands for his slice of time me. Book readings, peek-a-boos, alphabet and poetry recitals, soccer and just running around the house much to Seemz consternation, continue till bedtime. And the next day brings the same routine, all over again. You will never hear me complain about falling into a rut with the Dance of Joy.


Gas for the drive home: $8

Starbucks Chai Latte: $3.72

Speeding Ticket: $90

Coming back home to the ‘Dance of Joy’: Priceless

Everybody Dies

Pope John Paul II passed away today after a protracted period of illness and persistent capricious rumors of his death rearing its head ever so often. He was a man of faith and a purveyor of peace and goodwill for millions of his followers all over the world. Though some of his views on abortion, women’s rights were conservative, to put it mildly, he truly was a harbinger of peace and goodwill, one the few religious heads who preached restraint and reason in an increasing chaotic and crazy world. He was, as put colloquially, “good people”.

The legion of cardinals will nominate a new Pope in a few days/weeks, but with the ever burgeoning presence of religion in our day to day lives, it is imperative that the new Pope needs to garner the respect of the followers of one of the largest faiths in the world fairly quickly. Hopefully we will not witness a modern day Crusades during our lifetime, but if we do we need someone with character and unalienable resolve at the helm.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Association for India's Development

I receive frequent newsletter from a NGO doing exemplary work in the Indian villages called Association for India’s Development (AID). These guys do exemplary work for the betterment of the villages and were at the forefront of the Tsunami disaster relief efforts. Some of the best Tsunami descriptions have been recorded by Amit Varma and Dilip D’souza in their travels through the affected areas. Both these gentlemen have cited the yeomen’s work done by the AID volunteers as a part of the relief operations. Check out their website here for what they really stand for. If at all, and that’s a big if, I was ever to go back to India, this is one organization that would be worth being associated with.

A bit of digression there. So having expressed interest in membership with AID, I receive their weekly newsletter which appraisers the members about the different social work that is being done all across India. The newsletter that I received today, had some rib-ticklers, maybe because of the April 1st Fools day jovial demeanor all around the world. Given below are excerpts from the ‘News Items from all over’ section of the newsletter which I thought was hilarious. Enjoy.

News items from all over

Emotional family refuses to incinerate relative's dead body Serry Tiavo died after a massive stroke to every part of her body - she was hit by a truck. Her family, however, is refusing to give the body a burial, claiming that "we will not bury Serry until every cell in her body dies."Doctors say that all cells in the body die after about four months. In the meantime, the family's neighbors are preparing to sue the Tiavos in advance for oppressive unhygeinic odors in the neighborhood.


The real reason behind Marendra Nodi's visa denial.

AID News has learnt the real story from confidential sources. Coming to you live for the first time, the remarkable story behind why Marendra Nodi's visa to the US was denied. As most of us who are in the US or have been to the US every visa applicatant has to go through an interview. Some examples of questions that are asked "Have you ever taken part in communal or other harmful activities?", "Do you carry explosives in your backpocket, or your shoes?" "Are
you planning to engage in terrorist activities?" The interviewers don't exactly expect truthful answers to such questions.... but guess what happened? :-)


MIT donates PCs to indian villages

MIT has announced that it will donate all it's twenty five Pentium 20 MHz computers to villages in the Chittoor district of AP as part of it's information technology transfer to third world countries. An MIT spokesperson spoke to AID News: "It's like shooting two birds with one stone - we get to upgrade our systems, and they get internet access for free. At least for now their computers will be faster than their dial-up internet access. We will also throw in a few free computer games such as pacman and bricks for the village kids, so that they can at least be entertained while they are waiting for the rains. Villagers will also be able to email their complaints about agriculture mismanagement and drought to the authorities, instead of having to go all the way to Hyderabad to register complaints. We are sending our example to the UN so that we can institutionalize the idea of universities donating their old computers to drought-prone areas in India, Africa and other countries. This is a textbook example of how information technology can help the poor and underprivileged." AID volunteer HighEnergy Sivaraman, has volunteered to personally carry all the 25 computers back to India to the AID Chennai folks en route to his site visits to NGOs in all 28 states (how many are there anyway?)
of India.


Q. How many activists does it take to fix a light bulb?

A. Countably Infinite. A few hundred people, emails, petitions, protests and demonstrations to negotiate with the evil electric company monopoly, a few hundred to send emails, petitions, protests and conduct demonstrations against the capitalistic glass company that makes environmentally un-friendly light bulbs, a few hundred to fix the packaging company........


Corollary: How many people's movements does it take to fix a light bulb?
Answer: If the activists can only work together instead of starting off their own movements and NGOs, it would be one people's movement, instead of a new one each day.

Link