31 Jan 2007

Masterstroke

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:20pm


100 off 76 balls. Another gem of an innings from the master bastman. 41st one-day hundred, 30th in a winning cause.

For all those who've been dismissing him and asking questions about his form, this should be an eye-opener: Leave Tendulkar Alone. 



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27 Jan 2007

Great Expectations

Posted by Oblivion in General | 1:41pm


If one can sit back and pay fleeting attention, the drama that unfolds on the world's stage is very enjoyable. The same shit happens again and again and you wonder if the characters have the capacity to learn from experiences at all. Insanity fuels the situations and mediocrity shapes the script. A few samples:

1.Members of Blank Noise chose Brigade Road, Bangalore, last Sunday, to implement their latest project as a part of their campaign against eve-teasing. These girls would stand at strategic locations on the road and stare at male passersby. If a chap construes that as some encouraging signal and approaches the girl, rest of her friends would join her and collectively stare at the chap to unsettle him, so to make him - by their logic - realise how uncomfortable girls feel when they are ogled at. Adam-teasing to counter and eliminate eve-teasing! I don't endorse male chaivinism, but I don't buy female chauvinism either. To condemn oppression of women is fine, but to suggest that all men are bastards and compulsive perverts is certainly ridiculous.

A group of staunch feminists, with zero understanding of human behaviour, come together and believe that they can upstage male-female equation by some stupid campaigns! Males are programmed to court and seek mates; so far as evolution process is concerned, penning poetry to woo a woman is at the same level as ogling at her is. The associations that we give to each of these are our own conventions, based on our cultural background. As long as the chap respects the woman's decisions and preferences, it's insensible to read too much into his gestures. When he obstinately sticks to his preferences and demands the woman to oblige, the level of offence is same whether he passes the message with his unblinking stare or a beautiful poem.

That aside, there's always a small percentage of people who cross lines, no matter what. Make all the people in the world into cops and you will still have crimes. Practise adam-teasing for two centuries and you will still have eve-teasing. It's absurd to draw conclusions from specific cases and pass them as generalisations. Men take as much humiliation in this world as women do. To look at it all with a skewed perspective and expect preferential treatment is sheer rubbish. Eve-teasing is just a facet of a deeper problem - that of disrespect for other person's space and freedom. To consider it exclusively won't help anything. It's like trying to curb murder and believing that you are curbing all forms of crime.   

2.Shilpa Shetty and her Big Brother! I still don't get why there was that much fuss. When you volunteer to be part of a farcical, nasty reality show (among other things, I don't understand what they mean by that), and have the choice to walk out if you can't take it any more, why do you project as if you are being exploited? She passes some blatant remarks against you, your race and your country, you have the freedom to give it back to her. It's not a bilateral meet between Britain and India, damn it! It's just a fucken circus for the idiot box and it's between you and her. Keep it at that. Media thought otherwise and made it an unnecessary political issue.

Every country, every group, without exception, is racist. It's only when there's a reference to color that we seem to infer the remark or gesture as racist. Discrimination is rampant everywhere. Every damn country, every damn group is racist. Before spicing up the story and jumping to conclusions, it'd do good if media spare some time for introspection. Racism is as rife in India as it is in Britain. Limit such issues to gossip columns in magazines, give the dame her crores, switch off the cameras and kill the fucken Big Brother. In celebrity-obsessed cultures, such shows and fuss do more harm than a decade of addiction to pornography does.

3.Bangalore is content with gloss and hype, and a riot is among the last things to happen here. A few days back, however, a pro-Saddam rally, led by a few politicians, almost effected a riot. Normalcy returned in no time, but only after loss of a life, injuries to many, unrest at a few places and much damage to property. It was nothing to do with Saddam or Bush or any noble idealism, but a gamble made for political interests. Coming after nearly a month after Saddam's execution, the rally happened a couple of days before a religious procession was to be. It succeeded in its mission, in that the unrest it effected was enough to cut short the procession and render it ineffective.

I don't know how effective rallies are, but if it comes to that, I can understand the objectives of an anti-Bush rally. But a pro-Saddam rally? In India? Bush is a first-rate criminal, but Saddam was a despot. Is your complaint against his execution? But when you say a pro-Saddam rally, it doesn't suggest you are protesting the execution, but that Saddam was a good man and was meted out injustice. Effectively, you are saying despot is a good man! That such a rally was led by politicians and was approved of by the authorities concerned is, to my mind, a blatant exploitation of power and another kick on the common man's butt. The blessings of democary! Let's, then, do away with Gandhis, Tagores, pacifism from the school syllabi and let's study Saddams, Hitlers, and their heroic deeds. Politicians and their fucken games! But then in a country where you can lure people to vote for you just by supplying a packet each of chicken biryani and cheap liquor, will politics ever get better than this?

Afzal should certainly be hanged. For making fiasco of a great opportunity to eliminate the most heinous species on the planet.



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20 Jan 2007

Of Taxing Bondage

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:56pm


Questioning the inevitability of the inevitables is an engaging business. Of the two inevitables - taxes and death - the latter's mystery seems easier to comprehend. As regards the former, I simply don't get why it exists.

There's the State, there are individuals and there are companies. Individuals and companies pay tax to the State on the income they earn, and everyone share the spoils. The higher the employment rate, the richer the State becomes and finds it easier to govern the millions. Fair enough till this point. The moment one starts tracking where his rupee is going to and how it is used, things get vague.

An individual pays tax on the income he earns (goes directly to State), on every product he buys (goes directly to companies), and on every service he avails of (goes partly to companies and State). I'm told the tax he pays is used by State for providing better security and comfort for people. So, if he earns X, pays Y% of X as tax, he and his countrymen get better roads, cables, army, water, electricity facilities and other stuff.

State encourages him to invest in order to save a part of the Y% he pays as tax. Sounds good. But the State isn't so generous. If his income exceeds a certain something, investments don't help save tax further, because the State has progressive tax system in place. Besides, the investments have to be a considerable part of the remaining amount to be counted against the tax paid. So, the chap invests from the income that is exempt from tax in order to cut tax by only a negligible margin.

Paying tax is mandatory for all. On paper. If you are affluent or powerful, you evade tax and nobody can do anything. Those who chant Mera Bharat Mahaan might dismiss this, but, sadly for them, the data support the statement and data don't lie. The poor don't have enough income to pay tax anyways, so it's the middle group that takes the most burden. According to theory, and assuming the State considers everyone as equal, the infrastructure should be provided equally among all. Reality doesn't reflect an iota of this. In every city, there are posh areas. In these areas where majority evade tax, roads are absolutely great, any repairs are attended to with great alacrity and care, electricity hardly goes down, and traffic jams - rare occurrence on these roads - are cleared within minutes. In other areas where majority sincerely pay tax, life is a toil.

In Mumbai city alone, they collect Rs.60000 crores as tax every year. The amount spent is only Rs.20000 crores. So, they save Rs.40000 crores every year from one city. Given that they collect from all places across the country and that they have been doing this for decades, I wonder where all the amount that they haven't spent has gone to. Why doesn't the income-tax department show its annual general statement? If a tax-payer is a stakeholder in State, is it not his right to know where his money is going to? If the State makes it mandatory for all public limited companies to share annual general statements with public, why does it not practise this itself? There are many nations - money economies at that - that don't have income-tax policy and yet are doing absolutely fine, economically and otherwise. Why can't India do that? (Without doubt, there will be theories that explain why it works in those nations and why it isn't feasible in India, but theories just get stronger with time. Change the practice, and theories can be framed around that. No big deal.)

State corners the individual by appealing to his emotions - it associates paying tax to responsibility (another equally popular practice thus promoted is that of exercising your franchise). If you evade tax, you are an irresponsible citizen. The affluent have better incentives to preserve, so they kick responsibility on its face. For the non-affluent, these tags and labels matter, so they derive pride from sincerely preserving these! Virtue is a poor man's Mercedes. Being responsible - without even questioning how true it is - is almost a compulsive obsession with them. And the State continues to exploit. Vicious circle indeed.

Being an utter failure in comprehending the logic of the concept apart, I find the association of the deed with responsibility as an act of mockery by State. If State tells me, "Pay tax or risk imprisonment or, worse, death", I'd find it more honest. Take out the goddamn label responsibility from the equation.

I subject the better part of this damn life to a drab exercise called earning livelihood (of course, this is voluntary so I cannot blame State for this) and pay a part of what I earn to State. I pay Y% of X directly, and then Z% of every damn rupee that I spend of the remaining indirectly as tax (to say nothing of the bribes). If you say Y% is being used for infrastructure development, why do you again ask me to pay road tax, water tax, this tax, that tax, etc? I buy a property from the income that I manage to save after paying tax, but you again ask me to pay property tax. I invest from the saved income in order to save tax, but you ask me to pay tax anyways when the investments turn to returns. I pay tax, live in a moderate house in a middle-group area and you spend that money to provide a better drive for that rich brat's Mercedes, to provide better power facilities to chaps living in centrally air-conditioned villas with power backups, to provide telephone, furniture, transport allowances - amounting to crores of rupees every month - to ministers? Worse of all, you spend a considerable part of that money on defence infrastructure and war! I don't believe in war, I condemn the dirty politics, I don't like to contribute to the extant chaos, but I end up doing the insane deed of contributing, although indirectly, to war and politics. Indeed, some responsible fucker I am!

Working in air-conditioned confines, worrying about next week's movie releases and upcoming travel plans, indulging in grand but pointless discussions about new world order, picking up clever methods of analyses, one learns to shut the door - with a simple act of justification - on some uncomfortable questions. The irony that he may be doing the very deed that he abhors is lost on one. State makes it easy for a citizen - if he joins police or the army, he justifies subterfuge, conspiracy and genocide even though he believes that killing is a sin. Similarly, State makes it easy for a citizen to justify the act of paying tax by making it mandatory. One gets the money after the tax has been deducted. "It's your duty to pay tax, so just pay it and get lost; how it is spent is none of your business", the State says. The chap obliges, trades pride for the deed and moves on. Reminds me of Tata Safari Dicor's copy, "Slavery is not dead. You've just stopped recognising it."

Taking it a little further, one finds good parallels between this practice by State and that by mafia. Mafia also works according to its own laws and demands that you abide by those. Mafia collects protection fee that is proportionate with the size of your business. If you don't pay, you will take the bullet. The fee they collect is spent on the welfare of both the gangs and your community. Once you part with your money, you don't have any right to question how they will spend it. You have to believe unconditionally that they will spend for everyone's benefit. Of course, the practices are not same (on paper, at least) as regards objectives and utility value, but technically there isn't much difference between the two.

Is there no way out?



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14 Jan 2007

The Bengalooru Story

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:12pm


Average number of auto drivers you have to try before finding one to take you from A to B:
Bangalore: 2.3
Hyderabad: 1.1
Calcutta: 1.04

No. of autos with tampered meters (out of 10):
Bangalore: 8
Hyderabad: 5
Calcutta: N/A

No. of auto drivers who demand excess fare (out of 10):
Bangalore: 7
Hyderabad: 3
Calcutta: N/A

I haven't lived in other cities for a long enough time to compile similar data, but I'm certain one's experiences with autos in those cities cannot be worse than that in Bangalore. Auto drivers in Bangalore behave as if they are offering you a lift for gratis. I don't like to believe that police in Bangalore are not aware of these problems. If they are, then I don't see any use of having such an ineffective and dumb force in place. If they are aware but don't know how to address the situation, it again means the force is utterly incapable and stupid. If they are aware but don't want to do anything (which is, to my mind, likely the case), well... let me not get into slang.

Bangalore doesn't have many alternatives for transport. Calcutta has metro, one of the best in the world, trams, taxis and adequate bus services. Moving around in city isn't difficult for an outsider. Mumbai has local trains and taxis. Hyderabad has basic suburban train services, but buses and autos help commuting absolutely fine. You don't need to be familiar with Telugu to find out where a bus is going to, or what the name of a shop or a street is. Hindi, the official national language followed by majority, is prominently used so you don't feel out of place no matter which corner of the country you are from. In Bangalore, the regional language (although Kannada is one of the national languages, yet it is geographically regional) is overly prominent. Regional language has its place, but when you brag of being a cosmopolitan city, you should be more welcoming and tolerant of the outsiders. If you think it's too much and look at it as a threat to your security and culture, then drop the epithet and assert that you are a rigid city.

Cosmopolitan doesn't mean iPod crowd, more malls, bare midriffs, hybrid accents, international airport and foreign crowd; it means you are easy with the rest of the world, being mature and free of local bias. Mumbai is perhaps the only city in India than can be called cosmopolitan. I don't know about Delhi, but it might be on the list too. Calcutta wouldn't be far; infrastructure is below par, but its attitude is quite cosmopolitan even though it's strongly attached to its culture.

Bangalore, the most hyped city, has a long long way to go. It's just the Silicon Valley's loo, done with attractive interiors and appealing ad campaign. That's about it. The only good thing about Bangalore is its weather. Else, the city, vain and hypocritical, sucks! In more ways than hundred.



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8 Jan 2007

Exile

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:26pm


She opened the door with no audible signs of haste. Heavy downpour just dampened into a gentle drizzle as she greeted me with a most unwelcoming stare. Eyes, big and wide, looking straight, her expression stern, she looked like a woman who has no stories to tell, who has had a vacuous past and lost all sense of intrigue.

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Possessed with an uncomfortable blend of surprise and bewilderment, I cleared the traces of rain on my face, quickly ran fingers through my hair, still thoroughly wet, and gestured as if to point at a moment in immediate past.

 

“I was the one who just called up. Siddharth.”

 

“Ah! Come in, come in!”, she spoke in a mellow voice. Bowing a little, her left hand pushing the door more open, she showed me the way in. “Unseasonal rain… frustrating when you have errands”, she uttered with a brisk grin.

 

Feeling a little easy as I acknowledged, I dried my shoes against the mat and swiftly followed her. She took me through a vast hall, its large windows on three sides carefully draped, into a moderate room. It looked immaculate. A big, round clock with wooden finish hung against the wall. 5.14, it showed. Looking at my watch, I reckoned “Six minutes fast”. 

 

Presently, she pushed aside the curtain and opened a window. “Sun sets this side, so you have ample light at evenings”, she said as she turned toward me. On my right stood a writing table, adjoining which was a door that, I felt, opened into the toilet. About four feet in front of me, newspapers and magazines were neatly arranged on a coffee-table. Behind it reclined a cot; behind the cot stood the woman, and behind her was the window she had just opened. Behind me there was a sofa, above it was a big painting and above it, a tube light.

 

“Feel at home.” She smiled. And it was obvious to me that she was amused and that she noticed I wasn’t feeling at home yet. Maybe it was my wet, disheveled hair; or, maybe it was the fact that I still sincerely carried the two bags even after entering the room that I’d be staying in for the next 180 days.

 

“Sure”, I reassured her as I put the bags down and relaxed my shoulders. A good feeling of relief. She opened the door adjoining the writing-table. “Toilet. You get water 24-hours. You have two taps – one for hot water and the other for cold.” I nodded the nod that one does when one wants to say “I understand”. She might be in her late forties or just crossed fifty; it was difficult to guess. Her movements were agile, her face had no marked sign of wrinkles, her hair had very few strands of grey, it was difficult to guess. Difficult for me at least, for I never found any direct relationship between age and the general attributes that people use to assess the same.

 

“This was David’s room...”, she paused and glanced around the room. “…when he was alive. David is my son. He was a brilliant, witty darling who loved being with friends. At weekends, they would all gather in this room and play and discuss, play and discuss and make a mess of it by Monday morning. So, every Monday my day would go entirely in rearranging the stuff.” Happiness of nostalgia beamed on her face even as she tried to hold back a tear or two.

Should I sound consoling and ask more about David, or should I change the topic to turn her thoughts to something else? Should I abet an emotional catharsis or plan a clever u-turn?

- (...to be continued...)     



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7 Jan 2007

The Holy Sojourn - I

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:30pm


‘GOD’, it read. Neatly engraved on the golden plaque, so neat it must’ve been done by the most skillful of artists. The plaque rested in perfect complement to the huge door made out of the finest of sandalwood. The door abounded with meticulous carvings that appeared incomprehensible like an abstract work of art. A sudden feeling of delight possessed me. While I approached the door, walking with measured steps and intently gazing at the plaque that, for some reason, confounded me, it opened slowly, with the grace of a proficient ballet dancer.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 

A red, silk carpet led to a flight of stairs on which stood a marble palace, shining so bright as if focused by a thousand Suns. The air echoed with Beethoven’s Fur Elise, at every step it rained petals of roses, fragrance of jasmines wafted through the breeze, and every gust of wind sounded like the pull of a guitar string that made angels dance. It fitted the description of a great writer’s imagination of a King’s welcome to his young prince returning home after conquering the world.

 

I stood on the last step, very near to the entrance into the palace. I stepped inside to a rousing reception. As most exquisite Persian damsels danced around the fountain at the center of the hall, hundreds of poets and philosophers stood up from their chairs and sang the welcome song. Michaelangelo’s frescoes graced the roof, Dali’s sculptures embraced the pillars, da Vinci’s paintings covered the walls, and Fur Elise still played as I crossed the fountain to walk toward an empty chair.

 

Twenty feet away and on top of three steps stood a tall, handsome figure in an immaculate white robe. A short beard and moustache fitted His beautiful face shining in the radiance of compassion. With a warm smile, His eyes looking at me, He spread His open arms wide and said, “Welcome, Son!” The hall reverberated with the music of his voice whose tone filled with the joy of a father meeting his son after many decades. With a gentle movement of His hand, He gestured me to sit in the chair. I noticed His fingers were nimble and had no rings.   

 

The opulence of the moment was so overpowering that a flood of tears rushed to the brink of my eyes, in spite of myself. Was it dawn, or was it dusk? Was it a waking dream or naked reality? Was I being used as a character, deliberately made ignorant of the script, by a furtive, genius filmmaker for one of the scenes in his epic? Was I the preferred one by a divine conjurer to be the subject of mockery of consciousness? A whirlpool of questions deluged my mind, yet nothing seemed to matter. His face reflected patience and calm as I settled in the chair.

 

“I am glad to see you”, He said. I realized it wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t a dream but a sacred moment in eternity of which I felt honored to be a part of. It was God Himself talking to me! What madness had seized me to make me repudiate Him all my life, and what benediction had befallen me now to be the chosen one for this divine conversation? “Thank you”, I said, hardly audible as my voice choked. “I… I am glad to see you, too! In fact, I am absolutely glad!”, I sounded better. He smiled, He smiled with the confidence of a psychoanalyst who can read all the thoughts in the mind of his subject.

 

“Son, you have returned home after what, I believe, must’ve been a rewarding visit to Earth”, He said in a deeply concerned tone. “Given the oddity of the place, it might’ve left you with ambivalent emotions – at once intensely happy and utterly perplexed. Let me know if I can help clear your confusion.”

Was I confused? Yes. The image of the plaque surfaced before my groping vision. GOD, neatly engraved.  GOD. The plaque on the entrance door read GOD. Beneath the feeling of delight, there was a fleeting feeling of surprise. I was surprised why it was written in English. I  mean, I only knew that languages were invented by us mortals on Earth, and it never seemed logical to me that You also follow our languages and communicate the way we do! You are, as we believe, omnipotent, and this is Your kingdom. You could have had an entirely different language and communication system. Was it Your decree that compelled man to invent languages, or do You learn languages as man continues to invent and develop them? It beats me. How do You communicate with an Eskimo?”

- (...to be continued...)



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6 Jan 2007

Heart of the Matter

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:28am


A man did not want to be enlisted as a soldier and sent to Vietnam. He did not want to kill people. After explaining all this, Krishnamurti interrupted him and said, "Yes sir, I understand all this. But what is your problem?" Again the man, being an American, explained that he probably would be sent back to the States as a conscientious objector and he might be put in jail. "Yes sir," said Krishnamurti, "but what is your problem?" "Well," said the man, "the judges may not accept my arguments and then I will have to desert because this is a filthy war!" Once again, Krishnamurti said, "Yes sir, I know, but what is your problem?" Whereupon the man said, "Listen, they might shoot me, as a deserter!" "Yes," Krishnamurti said, "they probably will, but what is your problem?"

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2 Jan 2007

Yet Another Rant by a non-IIXian

Posted by Oblivion in General | 1:27pm


Last week, as I cursorily scanned the latest books on display at a bookstore, I spotted this one that featured the most bizzare USP in recent times. Below the title By the River Pampa I Stood, the line - akin to the punchline for a product's advertising copy - read A novel by yet another IITian. It is, to my mind, an amateurish promotion method adopted by the publisher. I find it amusing that the writer should endorse such a marketing approach that exploits the reputation of his alma mater.

Erudition is worshipped in society and there seems to be no cure for this disease. For reasons beyond my comprehension, IIXians are treated like celebrities in this country. There's this prevalent belief that if you are from IIX, whatever you do is a class apart. You write a book and you believe it's enough to print "written by an IIXian" to make it to the bestsellers' list! The recent Pan-IIT meet was covered by media as if it was the confluence of Nobel laureates to discuss the sorry state of world politics. Another group that is treated similarly is the NRIs. The promotion of films by NRIs in the last few years reflects this quite. And all they make is crap! Gosh, things are bad!

I don't intend to dismiss the reputation of the institutes. Their stature is too obvious to challenge. Although they still lag far behind in comparison with the best in the world, yet they have been doing great in this country for decades. The disturbing factor is not about the institutes themselves, but about the chaps who graduate from these. The perceived value of these fellows in the industry is unreasonably high, and the chaps (not all, but most) themselves think all non-IIXians are inferior mortals. Going by the number of Nobel laureates or management gurus or research scientists that come from Harvards or MITs, our institutes are no match. We don't have a single program that can be put alongside - in comparison by any criterion - the Society of Fellows program. The joker Laloo could effectively tackle the chaps at IIM-A, but found himself cornered by those from Harvard and Stanford.

Coming back to the caption on the book, it says nothing about the content of the book. It says nothing about the writer per se either. It tells you about the group he belongs to, a group distinguished in fields not connected to writing. It's not inappropriate in all cases though - if you are a brilliant chap from the London School of Economics and you write a great book like Freakonomics, the mention of LSE fits into the equation. However, if it's a work of mushy romance or a bloody thriller, I'd find the mention of LSE a little cranky.

As regards the numbers, I believe Stephanians have written more books than IITians have. But I never spotted the line "Yet another book by a Stephanian" on any book. And, heck, the number of books written by non-IITians far outnumber those written by IITians. If I adopt the same logic and revel in the size of the group, I should have the line "Yet another book by a non-IITian" mentioned more prominently than the title itself on my book. Sounds ridiculous and reflects vanity.

No doubt, IITs and IIMs have been doing great for years, and I wholly appreciate the alumni's achievements. But I don't buy the idea that all IIXians are more brilliant than all non-IIXians. And I find it stupid when one uses his group's reference to promote his work in a field that the group is not known for. Intelligence doesn't need the crutch of reputation of institutes, and it's absurd to derive confidence from the same.

I'll be happy if someone finds the cure for the disorder of correlating intelligence with pay packets and treating IIXians and NRIs like celebrities. 

P.S. All references have been made considering the majority. So, wherever the reference seems to point to 'all', I rather meant it to point to 'most'. Considering that I respect friends (brilliant indeed) who made it to IIXs, it is rather bad writing than intent if I slipped into generalisation anywhere.



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1 Jan 2007

Cheers, 2007!

Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:04pm


Welcome to a BRAND new year, 2007

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