Category: General

23 Aug 2007

The Defining 70

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:36pm

JWT announced, in December '06, 70

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17 Aug 2007

15 Seconds of Power

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:50pm

As I reached the junction, I noticed a speeding Ambassador. A melodious number played on the stereo and I hummed along. Traffic was absolutely still on all sides. After an hour-long dreary drive among insanely chaotic city traffic, this moment looked like a blessing. A moment, I thought, that I should either seize without ado or miss for eternity. Without a blink of thought, I pushed the accelerator down and manoeuvred the car to follow the Ambassador.

The car in front seemed to be driven by Narain Karthikeyan, and the road was unusually empty, but I was too elated by the moment to discern the oddity. Still humming the tune as the car accelerated, I looked at the rear-view mirror and saw a few Ambassador cars following at as much speed. A second or two later, it occurred - with a stratling fit of coming-to-terms-with-reality - there was something distinctly different about the drive. The aural faculty diminished in strength, the tune now moved into the background; the visual faculty turned more alert and I looked intently for signs. The revelation pushed me to the limits of alertness - I mistook the Ambassador for an idle speeding vehicle and hastily drove into a minister's convoy.

I heard the tune no more. My imminent mission was to get out of it. Caught between cars moving at great speed, it was no mean task. One wrong move and it would get only worse.

But before I could decide the method for accomplishing the mission, two police vans came racing past the cars as if to thwart a terror attack that has been designed to raze the city. The next second, one of the vans was right beside my car. The second van was behind it. "Gosh! Best of luck!", I told myself. The chap in uniform looked at me and said, "What are you up to?" He must've meant, "What the fuck are you doing, asshole?" After all, driving into a convoy was an intolerable infringement! Servant intruding master's space! The question, or doubt, "Who is the servant and who is the master?" does not belong to politics anymore; it is now strictly limited to the domain of metaphysics.

All the same, I looked at the chap who had just looked at me and asked, "What are you up to?" Nice cop: a sample of a minority race. I raised my hand and said, "I am sorry!" The cop was smart too - he instantly realized, "Ah! this guy can't be a threat. A dud!" With an assuring, quick smile, he said, "Move out!" Lucky day and a nice cop: a rare combination. "Thank you!", so saying, I pulled out.

A few seconds later, I was out of the convoy. Liberation. My 15 seconds of tryst with power ended. I stopped the car.

It took a minute before thousands of fellow servants, ordered to stop, started moving again.

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16 Aug 2007

From the Master

Posted by Oblivion in General | 11:24am

In the days of kings, the subject was told: You used to be the subject of King A, now King A is dead and behold, you are the subject of King B. Then democracy arrived, and the subject was for the first time presented with a choice: Do you (collectively) want to be ruled by Citizen A or Citizen B?

Always the subject is presented with the accomplished fact: in the first case with the fact of his subjecthood, in the second with the fact of the choice. The form of the choice is not open to discussion. The ballot paper does not say: Do you want A or B or neither? It certainly never says: Do you want A or B or no one at all? The citizen who expresses his unhappiness with the form of choice on offer by the only means open to him

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12 Aug 2007

Deja Vu and That Uncomfortable Feeling...

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:27pm

The 60th I-Day is just a few days away, and the hype has already started. It'll be a task to endure the euphemisms, that shallow emotion of patriotism, the loud, pointless talkshows, the giggling pretty faces with tricolor painted across, and the absolutely faked speeches of those fucken goons (read politicians). It'll be everywhere - newspapers, idiot box, newsmagazines, radio, blogs (ironical that I mention!), billboards, websites. While patriots revel and media exploit, it'll be a compulsive viewing of the circus for chaps whose attitude is that of non-solidarity toward fellow compatriots.

Some things never change! One hears the same lines every year. Same issues, same tasks, same problems, same stupid questions, same trite answers, same plans. They sell me the same idea every goddamn year - "today is grand, tomorrow will be grander". Nothing beats it for an exercise to make one a stoic.

Among the many opinion polls, democracy has again been voted the "greatest national pride". Just because we have an elected government, they keep telling me it's a democracy! To hell with having an elected government! The more important attributes for a democracy are accountability and responsiveness of the government. How accountable and responsive a government do we have?

Yes, RTI sounds fine and one can get some things done by voicing a concern (which goes by the grand phrase, "freedom of speech"), but this works only if the opposition is on your side. Let the concern be something that corners the opposition as well, and you will be eliminated. The din against quota works, the "non-violent protests" (glamorous exercises these days, thanks to Mr Gandhi) demanding justice for a certain Ms Lal work, the demand for better roads works, but expose the criminal deeds of the bastards among the ruling party and opposition as well, and nothing happens - even if you have video footage to boot. Just because some of us can write inconsequential pieces - against the system - in magazines and blogs and survive, it doesn't imply we enjoy "freedom of speech". For every lucky few who survive, there are thousands who don't. The powerless are fucked day in and day out. This has been the story for decades. Nothing has changed.

And, by the way, how fair an "elected" goverment it is? They bribe for votes, they rig, they use power, they manipulate, and they win. Barely 60% people turn out to vote, out of which votes are distributed among a dozen candidates. Chap X gets the maximum number of votes and he becomes the representative. If 70% (of the 60% that turn out) votes go for 11 candidates and 30% go for chap X, he wins by virtue of numbers. If you actually map it to the population, only 18 (considering it is a "fair" election) out of every 100 approve of him. Being unable to force the 40% who opt out of exercising franchise to do otherwise, the government equates "majority" with "maximum number" of votes. Democracy has more flaws - not as regards a concept, but as regards implementation - than just this. The concept sounds great on paper, no doubt. But then, even those of monarchy and dictatorship sound just as great. Democracy is, by many means, certainly the better one, but it needs a lot of basics to be in place. India is far from that.

To my mind, heritage is India's greatest pride. Its philosophy should come as close, too. One has to, however, ask brilliant chaps like Siddhartha in Pratidwandi to get correct answers. He would not mention democracy even among his top ten. 

Majority opt the easy way, for it's practicable. They keep referring to the "positive thinking" mantra - be blind to the foibles, focus on the achievements. The glitz of the effects of economic growth are thus passed on as justifications to feel proud and entertain "hope" for a "better" tomorrow - a day that never comes. Illusion always makes for a better companion than reality. Ideal is always a preferred beloved to status quo. Idiotic references also come in handy - "Come on dude, with all its flaws, we are better off than most countries. Look at the brighter side! Chill!"

Comparisons are good in academia, and they better be left there. One can write bestsellers with their focus on comparison, but it's ridiculous to derive fake emotions from it to beat the harsh facts of reality. How sensible is it to console oneself that a chap in, say, country XYZ is exploited worse than he is? How does it matter if citizens in other countries are worse or better off? We live in this country, we elect some chaps and we expect it to go well. If there is a problem, the solution is within, not without. That we live in a "connected" world matters at economic level, not as regards the relation between the rulers and the ruled.

The powerless have no voice, corruption is rampant, exploitation is rife, and the system is rotten. Unless these things change, it's a sham that we take pride in democracy. As the 60th I-Day beckons and the world looks up to us as an emerging superpower, we are still ruled by goons! And we don't seem to be doing anything to correct this!

A tad cynical perhaps, but I will rather down a glass of wine hoping we get rid of goonocracy than join the dance of the patriots to celebrate democracy. Cheers!


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6 Aug 2007

The Day That Was

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:47am

It walked in with quiet
It strolled without a word
And it left in silence

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9 Jul 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:21am

Then the poet wrote
Of her, of love, and of hope
And mused of more lies

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8 Jul 2007


Posted by Oblivion in General | 7:54pm

At the dead of night
Maria put the phone down
And lit up a fag

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26 Jun 2007

The Soldier Bids Adieu

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:20pm

Deliverance comes knocking
In the disguise of death
The uninvited guest walks in
And looks at me askance
Impatience glows in His eyes
As He, with air of indifference
Awaits to finish the errand

Lying low, beaten and helpless
On ground drenched in blood
I plead Him a few moments more
But He cares not, and I go
Watching with tear-dimmed eyes
The embers of fond memories
And the unsaid final words

Ye all the loves of life
The final sojourn beckons
Forgive me as I go thus
A silent, hurried, remorseful exit
To a world unseen and unknown
Leaving behind not a trace
Of either the here or the hereafter

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24 Jun 2007

All Eyes, No Brains

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:23pm

It seems that entertaining the masses has become the foremost objective of media. The Times of India is the pioneer in this regard of making entertainment more important than information. Sensationalism has taken the driver's seat, objective reporting be damned! Among the host of 24x7 newschannels, not a single one dares to not give in to the fixation for TRPs and upping the advertising revenue. Thanks to these eternally insomniac producers of kitsch, the word "exclusive" will soon join - if it has not already - those that drive a chap to the limit of anger.

In retrospect, the days of Doordarshan appear much better. Bland and limited footage, but non-intrusive and crisp. Just the way reporting ought be. Tight schedule and small teams meant they had no time to blabber about reality shows, bollywood weddings, and openings of superstar movies. No stupid talkshows, no cosmetic copy, and news was just news. I liked the Prannoy Roy of The World This Week and election analyses, not the one who does boring talkshow stuff now.

These days, there's no news - they are rather short films and docu dramas, complete with transition effects and background score. A few weeks ago when a bomb blast happened in Hyderabad, a popular newschannel aired exclusive footage of the blast! What surprised me most was the perfect placing of camera, its focus and angle to catch the sudden flight of birds at the moment of the blast. What are the odds for it being a coincidence that the cameraman was at the right place at the right time of an absolutely unpredictable event? Many people had raised this question but it proved futile, for nobody pursued it further. The unhealthy drive for sensationalising events and airing exclusive footage has gone to dangerous extent.

Even though the proliferation of channels generated employment for many, nothing has been done about assessing the quality of reporters. But then when money is all that matters, you can't expect them to do any better than roping in pretty young things, trained better in phony accent than fundamentals of reporting, and passing them as bright reporters who know their job. I don't have anything against pretty sights on the idiot box - it would certainly be exciting to watch them strip as they talk about fashion shows, stay-young tips and tricks, celebrity gossip and other such bullshit. But when it's about analysis of economic growth, refugees, Satyajit Ray retrospective, Beethoven's symphonies, I'd prefer a reporter with girl-next-door looks, brilliant at analysis, prudent and straight at reporting to a gorgeous babe passing off ridiculous conclusions.

They find scholars and academics boring. Let you be a celebrity and they will consult you for opinions on issues ranging from world peace to consumerism to communal riots to political ethics. If you attracted controversy, the more popular you will be in interview and talkshow circuit. That is why Rakhi Sawant gained more airtime - in main features, let alone filmi and gossip ones - by showing skin than Amartya Sen could manage by winning the Nobel. The scene is so appalling that I enjoy Cyrus Broacha's The Week That Wasn't better than I do any newscast.      

Print medium still has a few better chaps, and that is definitely a consolation. In entirety, though, Indian media would need decades to achieve even a tolerable level of maturity. Till then, I'll do better using the idiot box to watch only sports and ads.

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22 Jun 2007

The Great Corporate Dope Trick

Posted by Oblivion in General | 3:15pm

It's that time of the year again when one is subjected to the grind of filling the appraisal forms. A process no sane person would devise and an exercise no sane person would enjoy doing. I didn't enjoy doing it, and I'm not sane. When I finished the ordeal, I felt whoever had invented copy/paste/edit option ought be awarded a Nobel.

Not all people dislike it. As it is designed to be, many people indeed find it the best chance to summarize their past year's perfomance to the management so to effect in a promotion or a hike. They believe that the bell curve - that Great Intellectual Fraud, according to Taleb - is a fair mapping of correct and absolute judgment. They have their reasons to take it seriously, so I don't intend to dismiss them.

What interests is the vagueness and absurdity of its design. There's this section that asks the user to rate his performance in different competencies against his expectations. First, these competencies are not measurable. These are rather 'perceived' - whether subjectively or objectively. Second, the rating is meant to be cumulative, spanning one year, but the options are appropriate only for events/instances. Thus, the 'above average' rating is ridiculous. Yes, the ratings are meant to be against your expectation at the beginning of the year in consideration, so higher ratings than average don't appear to be flawed options, after all. But careful examination reveals that it is indeed incongruous with labour profiles (well-defined roles, repeatable tasks, limited power, functions with accountability), which most in the MNCs are. They don't outsource ideas profiles yet. The profiles don't deal with much uncertainty, either, as those of, say, hijack negotiators, extreme weather photographers, etc that rely on above-ordinary levels of anticipation and demand sharp decision-making ability.  

Your expectation varies depending on every performance. As you do better, you tend to expect more from yourself. Besides, with time, everyone becomes better at what he has been doing. In effect, expectation goes up incrementally. Expectation is nothing but a projection based on the inference of the past. It is inductive. As the sample size increases, your expectation would be according as your average scores. As the average goes up, so too your expectation. Performance in a single outing can be more or less than your expectation, and this, in turn, contributes to the 'average'. So, above-average ratings (exceeds expectations, outstanding, etc) fit only for instances rather than their collection. When one refers to cumulative rating and claims it is above average, it implies that he failed at assessing his capabilities realistically. Statistically, though, an above-average rating suggests brilliant performance!

Rating oneself is always a tricky business. The interpretation depends on various factors - how generous he is in defining what an achievement is, how encompassing his criteria are, and, importantly, how stupid the management is. The more 'above average' these factors are, the more favorable the interpretation would be of above-average ratings. Although the skill - or the lack of it - of the managment remains a constant factor for all subjects, the other factors vary. Eventually, the final rating turns out to be almost independent of the subject's projection.

All that impressive management bunk notwithstanding, it's just a game of instincts and biases. So there will be favorites and scapegoats. Scapegoats will, however, be very few, so the exercise works fine for majority and they are led to believe that the rating is an absolute mathematical equivalent of their performance. As a result, it stays. Ergo, no escape yet from those few minutes in the management cabin listening to flattery or abuse!

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21 Jun 2007

Selective Amnesia

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:18pm

There was a time, not many years ago, when life was simple. Then all friends, cousins, and all objects of affection grew to marriageable age. And everything changed. Well, at least for me. With the addition of spouses and, within a few years, babies, I began to realize I've a terrible head for names.

I seem to have no problems with the first level, though. As the levels increase, the recall value slides in inverse proportion. Ready availability of secondary memories - yes, the damn gadgets - doesn't seem to be helping much. Being genuinely fond of nephews, nieces and babies doesn't seem to be helping, either. A quick check revealed that I don't remember the names of spouses of almost 70% of the contacts. Remembering the sex of the babies and their names is proving to be an enormous task.

I play it safe by asking "How is hubby?", "How is bhabhi/she?" and "How is the baby?" Thankfully, it works because of their strong associations for "he", "she" and "the baby". But then all situations cannot be so favorable - there will be times when one has to mention names. When the babies grow up - which they seem to be doing quite good and fast - I need to refer to the baby in terms of boy/girl. As I show no signs of improvement, I'm sure I've to live through many embarrassing situations. May friends and kin be blessed with more forgiveness!

It can't be a problem with the memory, though, for it does fine - just like an average chap's would - with most information that matters. It's probably to do with my loathing for the institution of marriage and family as an entity. If this is true, I don't need a fix. Else, I do.

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7 Jun 2007

2012 - De Sign

Posted by Oblivion in General | 8:05pm

Olympics 2012, London logo

The logo for Olympics 2012, London was released Monday, June 4. The spend was

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25 May 2007

The Doors

Posted by Oblivion in General | 5:44pm

"If you wanted further proof that astrology is perhaps the biggest hoax perpetrated on the Indian public, take a look at some of the predictions made about the cricket World Cup. Not a single Bombay astrologer predicted that India would crash out before reaching the Super Eights. That charming fraud, Bejan Daruwala, said India had a "strong chance" of winning the World Cup and that either Rahul Dravid or Munaf Patel would be "player of the tournament". Who would score the maximum runs, Ma Prem Rithambara was asked. Dhoni or Tendulkar, she replied. And take the most wickets? Irfan Pathan. Sanjay Jumaani, who calls himself a numerologist, after giving some mumbo jumbo on how 2007 adds up to the number 9

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2 May 2007

The Tao of Love

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:37pm

He who loves not
isses the beloved for ever

He who loves best
Ruminates or dreams never

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8 Apr 2007

Faux Pas

Posted by Oblivion in General | 5:53pm

20 per cent of people are chronically poor spellers, due to a neurological glitch. A good part of the remaining population goof up with spelling (I'm not referring to typos. Typos are tolerable) because they don't, to my mind, study words properly enough. This extends to names too. If the newspaper vendor gets your name wrong, it isn't much of a bother. His job doesn't demand him to be good at spelling. But if you are a copy editor with a leading newsmagazine, you are expected to be meticulous.

Names - like spelling - are partially dependent on geography, so the naming conventions differ among regions and cultures. There's no such thing as misspelling in Italy, Spain, Portugal and other countries, for they have a more straightforward orthography. English is more prone to misspelling because it has an irregular spelling structure and has about 1,120 letter combinations to make 44 sounds. In comparison, Italian has 33 letter combinations to spell 25 sounds.

With names, it gets more tricky. Besides the usual challenge of getting the sequence of letters in the name correct, one has to get the sequence of the complete name (first-name-middle-name-last-name) correct. When one has no information of the convention that a person's name has been derived from, it's better to go by what that person himself mentions than rely on guesswork. I'd like to believe this should be among the important rules that people in media should be taught.

Outlook newsmagazine, its deserving credibility and smart team notwithstanding, never ceases to surprise me. I mention first-name last-name-initial with the letter, and the guy changes it to first-name-initial last-name in the published version. He expanded the last name when all I mentioned was the initial! And, obviously, he got it wrong (next time, I'll try Vito Corleone and see how he mindhandles it). Not for the first time. Not a critical mistake, but it is, nonetheless, an avoidable one. The chap must be either dumb or overconfident, and neither of these is a desirable attribute of an editor with a newsmagazine.

If it was The Economist, such a goof would be unthinkable. Although Outlook matches The Economist in values, yet it lags much behind as regards standards. And I'd like to see at least one magazine from India to be as good as The Economist is. A dream!

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