Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stopped posting ..

As I don't have time nowadays to do justice to one leave alone two blogs, all further rambling will take place only at

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Shape of the Beast

I read part of Arundhati Roy's new book ( a collection of interviews from the past few years, some of which I've already read) in Delhi and was quite affected. One can see the progression in her activism and analysis. First she was actively involved in a particular struggle (the Narmada dams). She puts the defeat of the struggle especially in the Supreme Court in the following perspective: that non-violent peoples' movements, (not just this one) are being comprehensively rejected ('humiliated') by our democratic institutions. This is very serious and leaves pretty much armed struggle as the only other means of change. This is the context in which she views the terrorist, naxal and other recent violent conflicts. She argues that one cannot take the conventional straightforward position of condemning these struggles, notwithstanding, as she is unambiguous about, that many of them are highly unjust and cruel themselves. As she put it, she is in the position of siding with groups who are quite likely to string her up if they come to power. She says that right now therefore what she is interested in is in looking to see if there are effective ways of resisting, in the current political regime.

She paints a pretty bleak picture out of an analysis that reaches very deep. If she's right we'll see lots more of violence and conflicts in the country.

I seem to follow behind her faithfully as she traces her own path of experience and understanding. I remember reading "The Greater Common Good" and just being blown away in the immediate moment, and also permanently affected in my thinking because of it. Later to my delight I found that she too has huge regard for Chomsky. Right now I'm trying to absorb her latest thinking.

Analyzing Delhi

From a week at Delhi (on work):

Delhi is endlessly fascinating.
How did it manage to avoid the architectural dead-end that all other Indian cities are locked into ? Delhi is simply gorgeous, atleast large parts of it which I have been going through. First there are the lovely colonial era bungalow-style buildings, all uniformly whitewashed. Then there are many red brick buildings which are a welcome break from the usual concrete apartment complexes. There are also more recently using a kind of stone/marble in a beige shade (sorry, no photos) that is just lovely. This time I happened to go to the India Habitat Center -- my god what a spectacular space. ( Some info though no good photographs at There are lots of events and art exhibitions going on all the time and with the good public transit, I would think, normal people could actually enrich their lives through it, unlike Bangalore, where getting anywhere is so sucky, that trying to integrate Rangashankara into your life for example is impossible (well, for me atleast).
Now Delhi is implementing Bus Rapid Trasit though its running into a lot of flak. I love it !! Its so great. Its just how the roads should be. There are gleaming modern green buses filled with people, speeding along their dedicated lanes and the rest of us poor car types stuck in traffic. That's exactly how it should be. And they already have the Metro. If the Bus Transit system gets implemented properly it will be a really liveable city for a middle-class person. Unlike Bangalore -- god, what a mess and getting worse every day.
Delhi is also significantly less polluted after the introduction of CNG and in the whole week, I did not feel at any point the kind of air pollution we see in so many places in Bangalore. The roads in lot of places, mostly New Delhi, are relatively not so crowded. Delhi is a car-driven city though (it has more cars than the other 3 major metros put together), and while it didn't show on the streets, it did show in the apartment complexes. The roads inside the complex are absolutely packed with parked cars and trying to make your way through is difficult.
The sheer amount of money and centralization. So many institutes, govt. departments, organisations everywhere, with huge buildings and campuses, all superbly maintained. It is so clear how the government bureaucracy and local elite have hijacked the wealth of the country and used it to ensure a better quality of life for Delhi.

The matrimonials in the newspapers (specifically TOI which I saw on Sunday) have a different flavor from the south, and with a unique delhi tang added. Here's some:

"DLI/NCR settled match 4 prof. qlfd wrkg smart b'ful Jain girl 33/157, issueless divorcee # 989982... Em: rkj1941@.. "

"PG Medico Match for V.Fair B'ful Slim 5'-1" 26 1/2 M.S(Gen-Surg) Garg Girl Status Family rkgupta1953@.. 093169..."

"PROF. qlfd. match of Gupta girl 30/ 5'3" very b'ful MS Comp. Science employed & Perm. resi Canada. From status Delhi fmly. I'less short M/ div. Send BHP. E-mail: storylko@.. "

"BE/MBA/MCA/CA NCR based 4 con edu tall, b'ful, smart MBA girl 26/5-7 wkg top MNC Ggn 4 LPA. Email: ... M...."

These are all verbatim and I'll leave you to puzzle through the acronyms.

more snippets: "high status family" "full of human values" "decent marriage"

The general things that stand out are the emphasis on high status families, (several of the ads are from significantly rich industry-owning families, atleast that's what they claim), and quite a lot of divorced people seeking remarriage.

On the Property side, here is this tidbit" A retail uprise like no other"

Perhaps I should move to Delhi. In a earlier post I said I would flee Bangalore if the Nano shows up. Rather than flee to a village which was what I envisioned, perhaps I will go to Delhi which is now it seems the only city that has figured out public transport at all.

Pic below. Couldn't resist capturing this. If you don't get the joke -- good for you ! Don't try :-)

Friday, May 23, 2008

I picked up Mulk Raj Anand's "Coolie" and read the last chapter (I don't remember if when I had earlier read it, I had gotten to the last chapter, but I found it a very strong book). This time, it was almost physically painful. In a confused chaotic time (before independance), with a bunch of people fighting for independance, another bunch of people getting onto the british gravy train and the vast majority suffering, this man managed to isolate the very core of the inhumanity and hypocrisy of the society and convey it in simple, straightforward and beautiful language. The critique is still relevant today, with a new set of actors replacing the british.


It reminded me of when I read Kazuo Ishiguro's "The Remains of the Day". Such incredible writing, that left me with a physical stomach ache.


I found my Pondicherry CD , "Pondy Groove" which I was quite upset at having lost. Listening to it now. I mentioned it earlier on the blogs somewhere. It is quite a striking fun CD. If you care about music you should take the effort to check them out. If you're interested drop me a note.


Sometimes (like after reading Coolie just now), I get into this state of mind where I feel that I really *get* this thing called 'life' and I am above it all. And then when I get into the hurly-burly of daily life and interacting with people, the conviction all vanishes and I'm back to being complex and confused. The point is not "how to preserve the feeling even in quotidian life" but that the feeling is not strong enough and therefore not true enough.


Jiddu Krishnamurthi once said that for all his decades of teaching he was not aware of a single person reaching enlightenment as a result of it. I was reaching a book on Buddhism by Osho and interestingly it had something to say about the Buddha on the same lines. It is a beautiful passage but unfortunately too long for me to transcribe fully. Here is the gist: The gods are upset because after he becomes enlightened, Buddha feels it is the right thing to speak about it. They come to the Buddha with this argument:

"We have found one single, small argument. It is very small in comparison to all the arguments that go against it, but still we would like you to consider. Our argument is that you may be misunderstood by ninety-nine percent of the people, but you cannot say that you will be misunderstood by a hundred percent of the people. You have to give at least a little margin -- just one percent. That one percent is not small in this vast universe, that one percent is a big enough portion. Perhaps out of that one percent few will be able to follow the path. But even if one person in the whole universe becomes enlightened because of your speaking, it will be worth it.. << some more >>"

The Buddha listens and accepts that it is worth it, and the book says that over the course of his 42 years of teaching about a dozen people were enlightened.


I'm off to Delhi for a week on Sunday


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Oceans Twelve

This movie is such a pleasure to watch, a real sensual experience. It is amazing -- there is a particular feel to the movie that pervades. It feels like the characters in the movie are consistent with the ambience, photography, cinematography, lighting .. it all just fits together..pretty cool. The feel is smooth, understated, casual.

There is so much going on, the movie is so tight that there is nothing redundant. In fact there is perhaps too much that they try to squeeze in, and you have to watch the movie twice to get all the scences. The surprise twist in the end is somewhat flat, a letdown. Its the kind of movie where reading a good review of the movie which peels apart the layers and is able to analyze why the movie is so cool is almost as much fun as watching the movie itself (this sure ain't that review though!).

PS: I just checked the Wikipedia entry and apparently the critics were not so kind to this movie. Oops. Well.

Killing a tree

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shobha De is like a chalk squeaking on a blackboard.
A long time back she called (pejoratively) Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy the "Narmada sisters": bitchyness of breathtaking lack of grace and decency.
In a recent interview she airily told the interviewer '60 is the new 40, you know' -- like she invented the line.
She fits a stereotype -- good taste and elegance, great refinement and sensitivity, having to deal with the burden of the great unwashed of India, awful sex-starved men ogling upper class women, dirty roads and lack of order. Oh to escape to Nice or Davos where you can get a decent pasta.


Fake Steve Jobs has a terrible Microsoft promotional video - cringe Nandita !!

Credit Card Woes - 2

As expected, this has become a mess and time sink:

May 9th: I sent them the dispute resolution form. By Speedpost -- because they did not have a phone number on the form which is needed to send by courier (and the address was a PO Box which courier companies do not deliver to).

May 13th: I called HDFC. They said that they didn't recieve it.
I went down to the Post Office where I sent it from and enquired. They don't have tracking facility so they gave me the phone number of the GPO and I had to call them to track. After several trails (engaged) I reached someone who told me it was delivered on 12th.
I called HDFC again and told them this. They asked me fax it. Why should I ? I sent it as per their instructions, they received it, to the best of my information, why should I waste my time. I don't have convenient access to a fax machine. If its more reliable to fax, why didn't they have that on the form and I could have taken some trouble to fax it the first time and be done with it.

May 16th: I called them twice. They haven't received it yet. Finally I told them that I won't send it again and I won't pay the charges. The chap put me on hold, came back and told me it would take a few days for them to process and for it to show up in the system so I should call back after a couple of days. So why did the earlier people tell me to fax it again, if its not that it didn't reach them ?
After the fuss they made earlier about telling me the merchants names, this time they did tell me the merchants' names (without me asking for it). Tata Indicom and IDEA.
So probably if they had reacted quickly, Tata Indicom and IDEA might have been able to stop the usage of the money as phone calls and even caught the person maybe. As it is, its 10 days later (and frustration and anxiety on my side), and not a single action to track down the perpetrators.

Oh I forgot -- the bright side, they responded with fantastic speed and sent me another card. Thank you, I'll certainly continue using HDFC cards going forward.

Welcome to my life Mr. Kafka.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bush gives up golf in solidarity to soldiers :

The problem is, he is talking about it..


I added two links to the blogroll on the right. One is to a blog by the guy who write "Not Even Wrong" , critiquing string theory, an absorbing read even if I understood only 10% of it. The other is to the hilarious "Fake Steve Jobs" blog, (of which I understand 50% since its too techie and gadgety)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Was working on something on our balcony at dusk and mosquitoes were torturing me. Mosquitoes are definitive proof that either God does not exist or that the Devil exists


This weekend, I got a physical hankering to be out of doors in the sun. It felt like my body was feeling a lack of the Vitamin E, or whichever it is that the sun catalyzes, and was making its requirement felt. It was quite wierd.

Poor Rahul Dravid. It can't be a very fun time for him with the Challengers getting thulped. He just doesn't seem to enjoy captaincy and leadership, the way Ganguly did for example (and Dhoni seems to be a natural). But he's forced into the role and then has a miserable time of it. He should walk away and just do stuff that he enjoys.
He reminds me a little of myself, a strained expression on his face most of the time, rarely relaxes and smiles :-)
I didn't vote, but co-incidentally exchanged a couple of mails with Vivek Menon, a foreign-returnee who stood for election as an independant in my area (he was a finalist in that strange "Lead India" contest of the Times of India). I didn't vote coz I wasn't in the electoral rolls, coz I have no idea how to get on them.

One of the things that keeps getting reinforced in me but I never change my ways is that when you move to a new place, if you (ie I) don't get the basics sorted out immediately (car regn. , cooking gas, water , electricity and if you care about it, voter id), they never get down and later has a disproportionate impact on your quality of life

There are timid signs of life in the electoral scene with very random people starting to try to do something. There are some tiny parties now (partitrana, jago, loksatta) and independants like vivek menon above who are giving it a shot. God knows we need it.
There is an option when voting to not choose any of the candidates, to express protest.
The newspapers have started giving out the financial worth of the candidates. Everybody is a crore+, and some are way above that. With the rise in tax receipts, government also is relatively flush with funds and it shows in the paraphernalia of governance -- high end cars and SUVs, long road escorts for government dignitaries. It stinks.
NGOs are distributed across the country but they don't have much of a presence in any particular constituency. How to build them together into a stronger voice in politics ?