Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Who is Anna Hazare?

Some people repeatedly call him an RSS agent while others call him the savior of contemporary Indian politics.  Some claim he is corrupt himself while others award him the Indian of the Year crown. What some see as naivete and outspokenness is considered ignorance and orthodoxy by others. Who is Anna Hazare and why does he inspire such divergent feelings? Dr. Ramesh explores.

The 74-year-old Kisan Baburao Hazare has indeed come a long way. Not many people in India can claim to have achieved as much as this diminutive Maharashtrian. Is he a modern day Gandhi or is he a man with authoritarian tendencies hell bent on achieving his goals? His goals if achieved will benefit the masses, the only question being whether his methods are acceptable to civil society?

Let us take a brief look at his track record. At a very young age he helped prevent the poor from being evicted from their shelters by criminal elements employed by local landlords, did this play a role in his becoming an activist? He survived a possible bomb or aerial assault and this set him wondering if he had a bigger purpose in life. He survived another accident while driving for the Army and this made his mind up for him and the people of Ralegan Siddi benefited the most.

He transformed this impoverished hamlet into a thriving village, it would be churlish of anyone not to acknowledge this fact. He used his gratuity money from the Army to restore the local temple and inspired others to donate either money or labour in shramdaan. What was even more important was his success in capturing the imagination of the youth and involving them in all his programs. Some of his major achievements are Prohibition of alcohol in Ralegan, starting a Grain Bank which in a major way helped needy farmers during drought, and a watershed program that helped solve water scarcity and increased the acreage under cultivation more than 30 fold.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Microsoft and Nokia Wooing, Amazon Jilted?

How are the mighty fallen!

The travails of Blackberry maker RIM don’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Their Playbook launch was a disaster, their email outages in October made a severe dent in consumer confidence, and their market share in the high end segment compared to Apple and Samsung is falling drastically. Is it any surprise that their shares are languishing at around $12, where they were once traded at $140. Another huge dampener has been the news that new phones which could perhaps give the other manufactures a run for their money and deemed critical for the company’s future will be delayed until Fall 2012. Has the Waterloo based company met its Waterloo?

There are unconfirmed reports that the company “was now essentially on the block.” Business Journals have reported that software giant Microsoft and the Finnish mobile phone giant, Nokia have expressed an interest in acquiring RIM. It has also been said Amazon, which came out recently with the wildly successful Kindle Fire, had been rebuffed. It needs to be said that all the companies mentioned above have never said they were interested in any such acquisition and all this might be pure speculation on the Press’ part. It, however, goes to show that RIM has sunk in esteem and is considered a target for acquisition.

RIM does remain a significant player in the corporate communications market and to be frank, the ease of its use in corporate communication is still unmatched. Unfortunately its devices have fallen out of favor with consumers who have gone in for touch ‘smart’ phones from Apple and Samsung. Compared to the overall US market share enjoyed by Android devices of 46.3%, RIM’s share was 17.2%. What was shocking was a 4.5% fall in less than 3 months.

Microsoft sitting on a cash pile of more than $40 billion can easily afford to buy RIM, whose value should be less than $8 billion. MSFT has also recently come out with its Windows 7 OS for mobile phones and Nokia was one company that was really interested in using this OS-the Lumia being the prime example for this collaboration. However, it needs to be seen how successful the new Windows 7 OS will be in combating Apple ios 5 or the newly launched Google Ice Cream Sandwich. My geekish nerd friend tells me that calling this an uphill task would be an understatement. Apple and the Android devices are so entrenched in the current market that upsetting their “apple” cart will be almost impossible in the near future.

RIM should have a bucket load of invaluable patents and these might be what the suitors are really after. Google—Motorola—ring any bells?? It also has quite a presence in the Asian countries, the stampede in Indonesia while not the best advertisement for its popularity still underscores the fact that its devices are sought after. I would be happy either way, if RIM can survive on its own and prove the naysayers wrong or if MSFT and Nokia acquire and turn it around. Competition does help in improving quality and bringing prices down, and Apple and Android devices do need competition!


This is a guest post by Dr. Ramesh Grandhi. Some of his popular posts are
Lady Gaga, Why this Kolaveri Di? Justin Bieber
Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar?
Are there really no full stops in India
Samsung Galaxy Note - Phablet or Tabone?
The Dreaded Pink Slip - Part I - How to avoid?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar?

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We could soon be seeing Sachin Tendulkar in the Bharat Ratna hall of fame. Justice Katju has called the recent move to award the Bharat Ratna to cricketers and film stars a mockery of the award. In this post, Dr. Ramesh Grandhi comments on the recent clamour for broadening the ambit of the Bharat Ratna.


All of India is agog with the news that the criteria for awarding our most prestigious civilian award have been changed to allow sportsmen to receive it. On the face of it, no one should have any misgivings about this decision, however, I feel the clamour we see in the print and electronic media for Sachin to receive it is a bit unseemly.  Sachin, to his everlasting credit, has handled himself in a highly dignified manner and it needs to be seen if there will be a backlash of public opinion that will actually prevent him from getting this award because of the clamour.

I, for my personal edification, wanted to find out if Sachin really does deserve the Bharat Ratna. Are his achievements in cricket so great that he can stand tall in the company of past Presidents, Prime Ministers, Nobel Laureates, incredibly gifted musicians, freedom fighters, and activists who have given their very lives for reforming the social and cultural fabric of our nation? The jury is still out on this, but let us quantify his achievements and try and come to a conclusion.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Samsung Galaxy Note: Phablet or Tabone?

A review of the Galaxy Note by a technology fanatic and an avid reader of this blog, Dr. Ramesh Grandhi.
You can call it what you want but the Samsung Galaxy Note is a winner all the way, it has succeeded in capturing the attention of cell phone enthusiasts while similar devices like the Dell Streak have fallen by the wayside.

The Note’s incredible sleek looks, the Super AMOLED screen that is such a visual delight, and the host of other highly advanced specifications really make it a worthwhile buy. The ease with which it has bridged the gap between a phone and a tablet is remarkable. For someone like me who wanted both a smart phone and a tablet, the Note was a Godsend. I am no geek or nerd and this was the first smart phone I bought and I can without any hesitation say that I am glad I bought it. I have not seen other phones like the IPhone 4S so I will not be able to give my view on how the Note would compare with it. I have, however, seen the IPhone 3GS and though the 3GS is an older generation phone, the Note would blow it away.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to cure Affluenza

This was part of my presentation at a green initiative undertaken by a media house in association with a leading beauty products brand. For a background, you may want to check out The Greening of our Inner Environment over at Subho's Jejune Diet.

I was pleased to learn that my entry for your green initiative was among the 10 finalists from over 4500 ideas submitted.  The entry I had submitted was a post that Ihad written on my personal blog on fuel efficiency for drivers.  It lists out simple tips on driving, filling gas, tire pressure, car pooling, etc., that can result in saving fuel and money.  I get about a thousand hits on that page in a good month, and an average of about 2 minutes spent on the page.  This is with no promotion, no search engine optimization, and with no significant backlinks outside of my own writing.  The purpose of my submitting that article as a green idea was to test and strengthen my assumption that information and knowledge shared by ordinary citizens can be essential to the future of the planet.

My green idea, however, is not restricted to transport management or pollution abatement under which my entry was categorized.  My purpose behind coming here today is to share my vision of how we can use tools of social media and public awareness that are available to us today to drive real change in our way of living and way of looking at life, thereby impacting all aspects of environmental degradation.  You will notice in my presentation that it is not focused on any particular aspect of environmental activism but on using the collective strength of community to foster behavioral change.

My proposal for your green initiative is to invest our time and resource in greening our social ecosystems.  There is a huge movement, and we today are part of it, to manage the crisis that we have put the external environment in.  My proposal is to complement this movement by encouraging and being agents of change in the primary area that has led to this crisis - our selves, our internal ecosystems.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thappad Se Dar Nahi Lagta SahibKo

Do politicians slap the public when they don't get elected? No, they wait till they get elected and then slap the public by taxing them for non-existent governance and public services while funds are siphoned off through not so intelligent scams. Was there any need to slap the man who likes endosulfan? Did it make any difference either to prices or to him? Would two or more have made a difference? Does it put the image of ministers at risk any more than having half a dozen of them in jail does? Very difficult questions to answer indeed.

The media is all caught up getting people to condemn the incident of Saheb being slapped by a man protesting in his own way against corruption and rising prices. Other than politicians worried that they might be next on the nameless angry citizen's list, they are not able to get too many ordinary people to come out and condemn the incident without a big grin on their face. They managed to get Anna Hazare to strongly condemn it, but he too messed it up by adding a "just one slap?" question to his condemnation. They looked for cadres from the NCP but they were too busy organizing protest bandhs and rallies in Kohlapur and elsewhere in Maharashtra. Cyrus Broacha was available but everyone knows that he is an out and out sympathizer of the man, so they left him out too.

The "greatness" of the political classes was demonstrated by the man himself and his daughter, when they took to the TV channels within minutes of the incident and requested the media and the public to forget the incident and move forward. Great what, you ask? How can you? If your family member had been slapped on live national television, would you also not have done the same?

Friday, November 18, 2011

When is the Facebook IPO coming?

Zuckerberg has always been open about his reluctance to take Facebook to an IPO. However, with the growing number of investors and the SEC limits on shareholders, it was a given that it would have to happen sometime, and now, it looks like sometime soon.

While earlier speculation hinted at a mid 2012 date, with numbers escalating, it seems that the new year might see Facebook filing an S1. The reason the Facebook IPO is a keenly followed development is not just to see how the markets view the value of this internet giant, but also because of the stocks and options held by employees who have been waiting for an IPO to see it turn into real money. Facebook valuation has pretty much doubled every couple of years in the last few years, and many of the employees would become millionaire if they were able to cash their options in.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Digvijay Singh and the Art of Living

When I asked my hockey coach in school why I was never allowed to play the big matches, he told me that I was confused about which side I was playing on. It took me well into adulthood to get this fixed. Looks like Digvijaya Singh has a similar problem. After Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare, he has now accused Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of being an RSS sponsored ploy to destabilize the government. The way certain politicians are reacting to any and all observations about the corrupt system that they have spawned tells me that he would not have got a chance in the hockey team either. But, good for him, he seems to have got himself an invite to take an Art of Living course.

There are a couple of important issues here, regardless of where Sri (sri sri) Ravi Shankar's sponsorship comes from. The one trait that all of these "protesting" people have is a leaning towards spirituality and value based leadership. Their values, lifestyles, and beliefs are all out in the open. They do not need a political or a marketing machinery to attract the crowds. The news that they are visiting town is usually enough to fill a stadium.

Similarly, the respect that people like Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal command is entirely based on the tangible work they have done in their lives, and on their public conduct. These are all people that the nation looks up to and respects. And in rather large numbers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Fujifilm X10 - Back to the Future

Fujifilm recently announced the latest addition to its Finepix range of cameras, the X10. A delight for lovers of the classic retro look that was introduced in the earlier and more expensive X100, this compact challenges the prosumer segment with its D-SLR-like capabilities. It is a 12 megapixel camera with a 2/3 in CMOS sensor. It comes with a 4X optical zoom using the new Super EBC Fujinon lens. The display is a 2.8 in LCD that gives 100 percent coverage, while the optical viewfinder gives 85 percent coverage. Here is a first impression of this compact that is almost a D-SLR but looks like a vintage.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tools To Help Manage Time

There are many tools that can help you improve your time management skills. For those of us who have been brought up on Outlook and GTD plug-ins, there are a host of options that have emerged over the years. While my favorite collection system still remains my notebook and pen, I have increasingly started using the digital solutions that make several aspects of managing tasks much easier. Here is a look at some of the really good time management tools that you should be using as a business or project manager, team leader, or just a productivity hacker.
Read More at Your Biz Our Biz>>

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Deconstructing the new Kindle Line-up from Amazon

Amazon has just commenced on one of the most unusual launch blitzes and product line promotion with the new Kindles. Kindle has been at the forefront of Amazon's growth strategy for a while now, and the new line up of new old Kindles, the Kindle Touch, the Kindle Fire, and the Silk browser, is only a reaffirmation of that strategy. For the consumer or the prospective buyer though, things can get a little confusing. Added to this is the neat marketing trick of free unlimited unrestricted wireless 3G on the keyboard version but restricted access on the touchscreen version.

Here are two articles over at Gizmowatch that breaks down the hype about the new Kindles and puts out all that you need to know in simple terms.

If your question is "which Kindle should I buy?," read this article.

If you want the lowdown on the Kindle Touch 3G and the free unlimited wireless, read this article.

If you have figured out which one you want to buy, click on the links below to directly go to the product page on Amazon for more details.

Kindle Keyboard, WiFi

Kindle Keyboard, 3G

Kindle Fire, WiFi

Kindle Touch, 3G

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Favorite Photography Hacks

One of the things that I learned these last few years as I started studying and working with professional photographers is that a lot of the creative mystery behind those amazing photographs that you see is really not that mysterious. A large part of it comes from the years and years of experience that results in a high level of mastery. The body, the mind, and the eye have become experts at working together with the scene and the camera to get it right with a minimum number of NG exposures. The other factor is that we rarely get to see or know about the ratio of NG exposures behind a good photographer's work. Typically, for creative work, the great masters aim for a ratio of under 1:10.

However, the one thing that came as a simultaneous relief and a disappointment was the fact that a lot of the clever pictures that you see are really the application of some simple hacks, some of it theoretical, some of it technical. Here are ten favorite photography hacks over at the BornTechie site along with examples of how they turn out.

Read More at BornTechie>>

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Amar Singh Arrested and sent to Jail

Amar Singh, along with three other accused in the cash for votes scam - Faggan Singh Kulaste, Mahavir Singh Bhagora and Ashok Argal - has been sent to judicial custody till September 19.  This is fast turning out to be the next "in thing," going to jail. With five members of parliament in jail, along with the cream of Indian corporate honchos, the next thing that celebrities will start getting inferiority complexes about seems to be having not gone to jail.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Leadership begins with Followership

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. ~Max DePree

My understanding of leadership has undergone a huge change in the last couple of years, thanks to the guidance of my mentor, and the little humility that I have to accept what life has to teach me. The change began with my renewed interest in value-based leadership that came from my study of Buddhist philosophy, but was really set into motion by a series of challenges at both personal and professional levels.

At a professional level, I found myself being called upon to provide leadership to a large team of people at my erstwhile place of work through a difficult corporate transition, where ownership had changed, and the new business philosophy was significantly at variance from what had been applied for over a decade. As I strove to help my co-workers focus on the benefits of the new reality, I found myself hard pressed to convince myself of the correctness of what I was saying.

At a personal level, I was faced with the reality of facing false criminal charges and subsequent financial bankruptcy arising from enormous legal fees, bond money and a servicing the ever-growing debt. As if things were not bad enough, I was repeatedly relapsing into acute substance abuse that led to my being unable to function normally. As things went from bad to worse, at home, at work, at what pass off as treatment centers for addicts and alcoholics, in prison and at the courts, I was forced to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is Abadi really Barbadi?

I have a thing about 3G. As if the struggles that the common man is being subjected to by an indifferent and arrogant set of "elected representatives" is not enough, the latest inroads by 3G threaten to eat into family time as well. Computer and Internet addiction have already been receiving much attention as causing severe damage to our social structure, but an unhappy Abhishek at every street corner? Things couldn't have gotten worse. But on a serious note, it is perhaps not right to point a finger at the population figures as the cause for our downfall or barbadi.  It is the demographic numbers that have placed India at the cutting edge of outsourced business processes. It is the numbers that make us droolworthy to global exporters and retailers. And it is the numbers that will see the downfall of the few who have exploited their positions over the last several decades to corner wealth, to abuse natural resources, and to steal what belongs to each one of us Indians.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rakhi Sawant, Gershwin, Hendrix and Sex Addiction

Amy Winehouse made it with a couple of months to spare.  One of the most amazing voices to appear on the scene in recent times, with amazing attention to detail, be it in lyrical or dissonant, the tragedy of her short life will forever lie in the fact that she will be remembered more for her struggle with her addictions than for the gravity of her music.  The collectively held breath was finally released as she passed away.  What would we all have done if she had stayed alive another 54 days and become 28?

The life and death of Amy Winehouse adds to the perverse fascination that the public has with the struggles of celebrities with self destructive obsessions.  Will her death lead to more people choosing to refrain from experimenting with addictive substances?  Will it lead to a more compassionate and humane understanding of the suffering that the active addict goes through?  The answers are obvious.

A few other interesting arguments, however, made me feel much better about my life.  On documented proof that he denotified land for personal gain, the ex Karnataka Chief Minister (ex CM, not ex Karnataka) Mr. Yeddyurappa cried foul, pointing out that others had done much more in terms of using their office for personal gain than he had, that he had profited from only a few acres whereas others had cornered 100s of acres.  Poor guy, really not fair.  Another “high” point came with the media focus on Telugu film celebrities in the recent cocaine busts in the city, with some of the stars reportedly upset that they get to face the music because of their being stars while the others get away.  Really not fair.  In the meantime, Tihar jail inmates decided to use a similar argument.  Raja, the telecom scam accused, took over from his defence to go on a why me trip, claiming that everyone was in on “the deal,” from the Prime Minister to the then Finance Minister.  I had my hand in the till, but so did he, and he, and she, and he.  For one thing, his argument was better than the one brewing at the Suresh Kalmadi end of the yard.  The poor chap can’t remember anything, thanks to a medical condition, it was reported.  What organizing committee?  Then a day later, outside a hospital, he tells the media that his mind is fine, it is just the heart that is rotten.  How true, Mr. Kalmadi, whichever way you look at it.

Finally, I must thank Rakhi Sawant for being who she is and teaching me what she does.I honestly thought C strings were what Soundgarden used till she opened my eyes.  Here is one lady who can make things perk up in a way no Cyrus Broacha can.  She apparently has given up her pursuit of wanting to marry Rahul Gandhi, and now has her eyes set on Baba Ramdev’s.  A spot of relief in a month that has seen cabinet ministers, chief ministers, and media barons do and say things that violates all sensibilities.  

It has been a tumultuous 12 months for me on the personal front, one of gains and losses of the wildest and most unimaginable variety, ones that I will look back at as the silver lining to the cloud of attachment and discontent.  I will save the horror stories for another day, but on to some other silver linings.  My friends in Kolkata celebrated the fifth anniversary of their unique experiment of value creation.  Given the strange times that corporates find themselves in, the consistency and determination of this team is an oasis of hope.  Read more about their journey over at the MTAnywhere blog.

A post on another blog reminded me how Rhapsody in Blue changed me as a teenager, and laid the foundation for understanding the so called “freedom” of jazz as against the formal structure of classical music.  I realized this was another item on my list of essential things that I want my son to know about and wrote down what I thought about George Gershwin and his work for him to read about when he grows up.  Do take a look at my tribute to Gershwin over at The Story of Parth blog.

Jimi Hendrix’s legacy continues to be remastered and reissued by the Hendrix Experience Project, and on the cards are reissues of Hendrix in the West and Winterland.  A lot of these albums never made it to Indian shelves when they were released earlier, but with these reissues, Hendrix heads here can experience the delight of picking up these albums from local stores.  Read more about Hendrix In The West at the Operative Notes blog.

My lay enquiry into addiction and recovery continues, even as Hyderabad is forced to look at the prevalence of drug use in the city.  Looking beyond drugs and alcohol, and reflecting on what I learned working with others back in the early 90s, I can clearly see how most of what we document as “victory over addiction” is in reality nothing more than substituting one form of addictive behavior with another.  In therapeutic communities, it is typically food and exercise, followed by god and sex, that addicts turn to in their search for a replacement of their drug of choice.  Outside the confines of the therapeutic community, it is typically sex and money first, usually followed by work and “fixing” others (now that we have recovered and turned into saints and saviours).  Taking a break from my usual ranting against the injustices of the addiction treatment world, this month I took a look at love and sex addiction.

What a month!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Save Money by Driving Efficiently

How to save gas and improve mileage are questions that all of us are asking in these times of ever increasing price of petrol and petroleum fuels.  Taking it a step further would be to ask how we can actually benefit from the high price of fuel.  Here are some tips that I have learned from the best teacher in the world on how to maximize fuel efficiency - experience.  I owe a debt of gratitude too to my mentor in driving, Yellesh, who showed me how driving can be a life transforming exercise.

Drive Steady:  It is universally accepted that driving at a steady speed gives you the best mileage possible.  The logic is simple.  It takes more power to accelerate (hear the engine vroom?) than to maintain a steady speed.  Keep your pressure on the accelerator gentle and consistent.  Most car engines are designed to give optimum mileage at around 45-55 kmph.  This also helps me experience self discipline, self control and contentment.

Brake gently:  First, be present to the road.  If you see a junction with a light coming up, cut the engine off by moving to neutral, since the inertia of the car will keep it moving anyway.  If the light doesn’t turn red till you are really close, you can switch gears and add power to avoid getting too slow as you cross the signal.  A gentle brake in advance will allow you to cruise a distance at a slower speed, while a heavy brake at the last moment is an obvious waste of paid for momentum.  Second, be humble.  Most people need to use the brake frequently and heavily because they are trying to move fast.  Yellesh showed me repeatedly that the guy speeding past you doesn’t necessarily get there fast, especially in heavy city traffic.  The fuel he wastes is not worth the minutes he shaves off his drive.  Being humble means being okay with letting others get ahead of you and being patient enough to tolerate the few minutes delay.  Familiarize yourself with the speed limits and the traffic on your route as much as possible.  Don’t accelerate when you know you will have to slam the brake to slow down.

Plan ahead:  Consider the route you will be taking and the traffic on it at that time of the day.  Choose a fuel efficient route.  If there is a detour with less traffic and longer stretches without signals, you will not only save gas, but also time.  Driving in heavy traffic consumes significantly more fuel.  Stretches of straight, good roads with fewer speedbreakers and signals will allow you to stay at consistent RPMs for a longer time, saving fuel and enjoying your drive.  You will not have to deal with the stress and irritation of heavy traffic either, thereby leading to overall driver happiness.  Another aspect of planning ahead is the more immediate one that you can do while driving.  Stay slightly detached from traffic ahead of you.  Keeping a distance gives you room and time to drive strategically while freeing you from the need to be “with the herd’”  The principle of braking gently is easier to practice when you have enough room in front of you.

Switch off:  Learn to use inclines to your advantage.  I normally switch the engine off when downhill, but if you worry a lot, I would suggest shifting to neutral instead.  The same applies to traffic signals that are more than half a minute long.  Another tip is to turn off the air conditioning a good few minutes before you reach your destination.  The cooled interiors along with the blower will keep you cool for those few minutes and save you some fuel.

Window up:  Unless you are in very hot weather and not in a position to use air conditioning, drive with your windows up.  This gives better aerodynamics by reducing the drag caused by air turbulence from open windows.  It also cuts out noise and dust, and allows you to enjoy the meditative aspect of driving without those distractions.

Floss regularly:  Keep your tire pressure at the recommended level or just above it, and ensure that all your tires are at an uniform pressure.  Service your engine regularly, preferably every three to four months if you drive regularly, and certainly before every long road trip.  Unclutter your car of anything that you don’t need so that you are not burning up fuel ferrying unnecessary weight.

Fuel up smart:  First tip here, avoid premium petrol - premium fuels (branded “extra premium” petrol) cost more, and have not been proven to either increase mileage or engine life.  It does, however, do wonders for power and heart thumping acceleration, not to speak of the cost of overhauling exhausted engines.  None of these are good ideas in these times of rising prices.  The best time to fuel up is early morning (or the time when the ground is at its coolest) since fuel density is higher at colder temperatures, and our petrol pumps do not compensate for this.  For the same price, you get a lot less literage as the day heats up, and for hot climes that could mean all the way into the night.  A lot of people advise letting your tank come close to empty before refilling so that you are not carrying extra weight of the fuel around beyond necessary.  I have tried this, and disagree on a few counts.  Tending to drive close to empty can seriously let sludge into your engine.  Secondly, you risk running out on gas at critical times, especially dangerous on inclines, depending how your fuel tank outlet is positioned, since when you are rock bottoming and on an incline, the outlet might be above the fuel and get you into trouble.  After many debates and bad moments, I have come to conclude that in a hot climate like ours, the best idea is to refill when the tank is about half empty.  This balances the weight issue and compensates the vapor loss issue, which is based on the fact that the empty space in your tank is a trap for liquid petrol to vaporize.  Also, don’t fill up at a station when the pump’s storage tanks are being filled by oil tankers, as it will stir up the impurities in the tank and transfer them to yours.

Driving without driving:  Two brilliant moments from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon sum up what this post is all about.  The first is, “Dont think, Feel.”  Get in touch with the process of driving, the act of being one of many cars out there on the road, each with its own purpose and urgency and discipline or lack of it, and the principles of nature that are there to assist you, such as inclines, pauses, foresight, etc., as you set forth on maximizing your benefit from, yes, rising gas prices.  Turn your drive into an exercise in self discovery and meditation.  The second is the concept of “fighting without fighting.”  The best way to benefit from rising gas prices is to not drive.  How does one get by without driving in today’s age?  That is for another post.  But on this one, consider driving less.  You can start by carpooling, not by looking for existing carpools but by announcing your own carpool.  As you begin giving to the world, the world will also give back to you.  Plan your trips ahead and let others know, even if it is a routine trip to the grocery store or taking the kids to the zoo.  You will be surprised at the response you get.  Another way of driving less is to combine trips.  We often end up making the same route two or three times when a little planning and foresight could have clubbed them all into one trip.

My top tip for maximizing fuel efficiency still remains not driving.  I promise to add the link here.  Do read it when I get down to posting it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Government pouts, Protestors die, as does Husain, and Teach Yourself Hip Hop

Baba Ramdev breaks fast (no pun intended) while Swami Nigamanand dies fasting, M.F. Husain dies in exile, and Debdoot Das releases his second Quick & Dirty Guide.

While the nation is held captive by name calling and pouting by senior statesmen clinging fast to their "elected representative" status, in the same hospital ICU where Baba Ramdev was, Swami Nigamanand, who had been fasting for 73 days (Ramdev broke his fast on the 9th day) over illegal mining and its effects on pollution in the river Ganges, passed away, with no difference made to the government, the media, or the illegal mining.  And here I am, thinking that the events of my personal life are ironic!  Click here to read an article by Surajit Dasgupta on the action against the movement.

Anna rocks on, in spite of being abused and vilified by people we have elected to power.  The civil society movement against corruption now has a hotline that will give you updates on the status of its struggle.  You can call 09212123212 for the latest.You can also visit the website of India Against Corruption to hook up with the movement in your city.  In the face of elected representatives dismissing the people's anger as a conspiracy by the Hindu right wing (which naturally makes the entire issue of corruption irrelevant) and a movement with the support of a few thousand, each one of us who throws our weight behind this team of "right"-thinking people will make a difference.  Click here to view contact persons in your city.

If you are interested in reading more about this issue, you may want to read my earlier post on this blog written after the police lathicharged and teargassed unarmed and sleeping protestors in the middle of the night.

M.F. Husain's life, almost out of a Thomas Mann novel, from his beginnings as a film billboard and sign painter to dictating his own million dollar price tags for his works, from his hand painted directions to the venue of his son's wedding to his serial muses in Madhuri Dixit, Tabu, Anoushka and Vidya Balan, from the endless fantastic tales of his bizarre habits and behavior to his love for fine food, is an artistic statement by itself.  Hounded by Hindu right wingers for violating their moral sensibilities, Husain spent the last years of his life as a citizen of Qatar.

The Irani tea shops of Mumbai, the Azad Hind dhabas of Kolkata, and conveyor belt eateries of London will continue to spin tales around his contributions to their establishments for years to come.  His death is a loss, not only for the world of art, but for the world of liberal thinking.  Read my humble tribute to this master who is now being grieved by his attackers as the Picasso of India, and whose last rites, according to them, should be performed in his motherland.

On to more uplifting developments.  Have you ever wondered what makes some men and women are more attractive than others?  Well, science has been trying to figure it out, and has spread its probing tentacles in every direction, statistical, symmetrical, body fat ratios, you name it, and they have sent their sniffer dogs that way way before you thought of it.  One of the confirmed findings is that certain dance moves do make a potential mate appear more attractive than others.  This explains the popularity of dance across cultures and time.

Salsa is one of the most popular contemporary dance forms the world over.  Debdoot Das, the brilliant young filmmaker from Kolkata, is also the maker of the world's hottest selling instructional DVDs on Salsa and, recently Hip Hop.  He is also one of my closest friends.  Read more about his Quick and Dirty Guides, as well as about our friendship.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Corruption - Where Might is Right

As I am writing this, Baba Ramdev has been evicted from Ramlila Maidan in Delhi where he was undertaking a fast in protest of government indifference to the issues of corruption that have been rocking the nation for the last few months.  While some compare the government action as reminiscent of the Emergency of 1975, others point to the fallacies and inconsistencies in the yoga guru's stance.  There are others who are busy digging up the dirt on either Baba and his camp or on the government and its motive behind this barbaric action. On a sadder note, politicians of every hue and allegiance are descending like birds of prey to capitalize on this development, many of whom have their peers in prison on charges ranging from murder to less heinous practices that sees tax payers' hard earned money being used to bail out an economy raped by greedy and self seeking power mongerers.

The principles of yoga demand right living.  A camp organized for yoga, according to the government of today, cannot be used for agitations or protests.  What our learned politicians fail to understand is that yoga itself is a statement against all that is out of balance in the system, both internally in our bodies and minds, and externally as a reflection of this internal reality.  What we see as society, social structure, going all the way up to governance and the principles of governance are but manifestations of innumerable intent nurtured in each individual.

Having been a long-time practitioner of hatha yoga as part of my study of the tantric sciences, there is little that Baba Ramdev says about yoga that I can disagree with.  However, I do find many of his views on other matters not only narrow minded, but even ridiculously immature.  When the Lokpal Bill movement of Anna Hazare caught the imagination of the nation, it was only to be expected that he would climb on to the bandwagon with his longstanding rant against the siphoning off of national wealth in the form of "black money."  In particular, I have strong reservations about his alleged links, if true, with the Hindu right wing.

None of this can detract from the fact that, in all his supposed naivete, what he is demanding of the government is something that every right thinking Indian is deeply desirous of.  I am not talking about trivialities like withdrawing high value currency notes or replacing English as a medium of education in institutions with the vernacular.  I am talking about the basic question of a nation's right to be governed by people who believe in right action, and who follow it up with right action.  If we cannot look up to the people who we are offered to choose from to elect to governance, if we cannot trust the members of police and law enforcement agencies to act upon principles instead of bribes and lust, if we cannot trust that the judiciary will be above temptation or personal motives, it is but natural that our mistrust will sooner or later express itself, and if not heeded, express itself in ways that will force it to be heeded.

It is the tragedy of our times that politicians choose to enter public life and governance not to help ameliorate the dismal conditions that the masses struggle to survive in, but in order to use their power and offices to feather their own nests, aware of the nature of their actions, and taking utmost care to ensure that any attempt to corner them is confounded by tortuous money trails and legal red tape.  It is equally tragic that the ones in charge of addressing these issues of corruption are repeatedly being revealed as its perpetrators rather than those we can trust to prevent it. The very concept of a dependable criminal justice system has been hijacked by corruption to a point where it is today a farce of a justice system that is controlled by criminals.

With the growing disenchantment with the system among the populace, it remains to be seen to what levels corruption and self seeking can go before it implodes upon itself.  As a believer in the infallibility of the law of simultaneity of cause and consequence, I am convinced that there is hope, in  spite of the uphill struggle that lies ahead.

If you liked this post, you may also want to read this original unabridged article by my father written for a leading Telugu daily.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bob Dylan, Badal Sarkar, Google Music and Avakaya

Phew!  Talk about global warming!  Strauss-Kahn got bail, Kanimozhi didn't.  Mamata Bannerji paints the Writer's Building green and no superinjunction keeps the mess in Greece, Portugal and Ireland away from the headlines.  David Headley (ex-heroin smuggler and, later, DEA agent) sings almost like he were tutored in a coal mine, and the IMF, the IPL, volcanos and tornados vie for eyeballs on news channels.

On with the Curious Hat.  Today is Bob Dylan's birthday.  While there are a lot of reservations in many quarters about the integrity of this man, I quite love his southern hemisphere madness.  His mastery over the written word aside, his fantasies about himself are bitter-sweetly endearing.  It is sad that in a country that prides itself on the freedom of expression, his tortuous tales about his past are the subject of, let us say, gossip.  The richness of his body of work and the relevance of his contribution to the pacifist movement will be hard to discount by even the most hardened of Bylan baiters.  Happy Birthday, Tambourine Man.  Read my post on the Original Mono Recordings released earlier this year.
Another giant of people's movement died this month.  Though often tagged to street theater, what Badal Sarkar did in his lifetime was to demolish all conventions of dramatics, from structure to presentation, and from sets and props to revenue models.  There has been a lot written about his work, especially after his death, and I too added my 92 paise worth to it over at the The Story of Parth blog.

Hyderabad has been stoic about summer this year, given the heat generated elsewhere, be it the Kadapa elections, the 2G scams, or the Ongole bull sperm getting Brazilian cows pregnant.  However, that has not stopped anyone from indulging in the ritual of making drool inducing avakaya or mango pickle, an Andhra (for me that means, Telengana, Rayalseema and Andhra) delicacy.  If you want to know more about this madness, or are searching for a fail-proof recipe to work out of, read this post at Sita Ki Rasoi.

The war for the future of devices and apps has been getting noisier, Windows 8 or no Windows 8, but two things that set the alarm bells ringing for the future of working out of the cloud for people like me.  The first was the blogger outage, which saw a good number migrate to other blogging platforms.  Just imagine if you came to work on a Friday morning and found that all that you worked on in the last 24 hours was not available to you, and imagine not getting access to it till well into next week.  While Blogger was quick to roll back to an earlier version, and also managed to get a lot of interval posts up across the weekend, a lot of standalone page edits or additions appear to have been lost for ever.  The other development, though not as catastrophic, was the launch of Google Music.  Though officially and ethically not available to users in India, this cloud based storage, sharing and streaming application does significantly change the way the entire music industry (artists, labels and customers) transacts.  Read more about this game-changing music service from Google in this post from The Operative Note.

Before I sign out, on a personal note, I have tried to respond individually to each and every comment and email over the last couple of months, but since I have not published the comments pertaining to my personal life on my blog, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks for all the support I have received as I set out seeking my destiny.  I also request all my wellwishers to have patience as I gather the 5-year-old shreds of my life together before I put out my motivations for my recent decisions and share with all of you my dreams and plans.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tagore, Robert Johnson, Nilgiri Tea, and some Spinach

Summer of 2011 has been pleasant and turbulent and extremely life transforming.  I was able to draw on the love, support and inspiration of a host of friends and wellwishers to finally take the decision to cut ties with what one might have called my workplace of over 13 years.  While I have been hearing more and more people speaking of making their lives count and walking away from the pursuit of wealth creation for relatively selfish ends, the fear of uncertainty and the size of debts and bills has till now held me back.  As I learned the hard way that expecting others to keep their commitments only sets you up to be let down, I was guided back to faith and the concept of surrender.  Read more about my decision to not work for a living at subhorup.blogspot.com once I get down to writing about it.

The other major development was a surprise reestablishment after two years of the object of devotion (not my music system, silly!!) on the evening of May 5, along with an equally lifechanging dialog with one of my closest friend and guide. Over the next few days, I was able to see my selfishness, my utter disregard to the consequences of my thoughts, speech and actions, and my indifference to the sufferings of my loved ones.  I am still struggling to not just accept it, but to change it entirely.  Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers I know.

Three birthdays of people related to me from previous lifetimes this month.

Rabindranath Tagore was born on May 7, 1861.  Like Ramapada Chowdhuri said in his acceptance speech at the 2010 Rabindranath Memorial Awards, his ubiquitous signature that adorns the cover of all his Visva Bharati publications, is one that is instantly recognized by every Bengali, if not every lettered Indian.  Though known mainly for his poetry and songs (which number several thousand), he created his place in literary thought through his essays, philosophical and spiritual writings, and novels and dramas too (am I leaving something out?)  His body of work covers several shelves in my parents study.  Thanks to the quiet erudition of my father (an incurable Tagore hotstepper) and not so quiet fanaticism of teachers like Shibajida, I was guided to his more seminal and intense works, and in spite of my limited exposure to literature written in Bengali, I have found in his writing succor and meaning at my times of greatest need.  Legends like him never die, and he went on to return to being the Bhanusingha (Sun Lion) that he wanted to be as a teenager.  Though a lot of his work still remains untranslated, all his translated work is out in the public domain and can be found easily online too.  Do delve.

The other birthday that in some ways has almost as great a significance as that of Tagore to me personally is that of songwriter and guitarist, and pioneer of the Delta blues, Robert Johnson (heresy, cries the good Bong, blasphemy!), who turned 100 on May 8 this year.  Strange, in contrast, since, in the relatively short lifespan of 27 years, he wrote only 29 songs, and his complete recordings (even with the multiple takes) write comfortably on to one Audio CD.  I had almost no idea of Robert Johnson's work beyond the occasional reference to him in books about Delta blues that I came across.  It was after listening to Clapton's Me and Mr. Johnson, that I got myself to find the Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson.  That was when I discovered that a lot of stuff that I had loved and grown up with were actually his songs, such as Crossroad Blues, Love in Vain, They're Red Hot, Traveling Riverside Blues and many more.  It dawned on me with each new track that here was the roots of much of the guitar work and blues work that I lived by.  Read more about Robert Johnson at my 100th birthday post over at Operative Notes.

The third is that of Bob Dylan, who unlike the two above is still kicking and screaming, even as Lou Majaw prepares to celebrate his birthday on May 24 at Shillong.  Read about his life and work in my original mono recordings post. If you are not familiar with Lou Majaw and his mission, do google it.  It might just change (or save) your life.

Food for thought.  Is an iron-rich diet necessary for sword-swallowers?  Read about two unusual recipes with spinach at Sita Ki Rasoi.  Now that the Supreme Court has stayed the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, this little piece of cyberspace is again freed from the pushme-pullyous of greed.

Brews from South India typically make one think of coffee, but thanks to friends who love tea, I had the good fortune of learning about fine teas that are grown in the Nilgiris.  Read more about full leaf fine teas from South India at Blend of Tea.

One for the road.  A translation of lines from Tagore, no way close to the original.  The Bengali is Porobashi Chole Esho Gharey

Come back home, Oh, Sojourner
Sail back in the friendly wind
Come back home, Oh, Exiled Self

Come back and see, for you
The ferry goes back and forth ceaselessly (for you)
The boatman’s song reverberates in the sky

The sky is set to greet you back
The breeze sings the welcome song

Your soul didn’t let you hear,
Made you homeless everywhere
You’re exiled within, exiled in life

Have a great run up to monsoon, dear reader.  Have a great life.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is dead

The White House has announced that President Barack Obama will address the American people on a national security issue around 10.30 p.m. ET.

It is speculated that he will announce the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Update:  Sources confirm the news of his being killed as President Obama addresses the world.  Visit Fox News for more by clicking here

Update on May 3, 2011:  A lot of data through optic fiber on this particular topic, perhaps the highest realtime use of the social network space.  I am not qualified to comment on the comments that are being made on this event, since I am firm and placid in my lack of understanding of causes and effects.  However, this post on a blog by a friend made a lot of sense.  Do look it up by visiting Sunday Posts at sundayposts.blogspot.com and look up the post on the start or end of war. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mary Frye: Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave bereft
I am not there. I have not left.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Simple UIs for Gmail and Calendar

I switched to google docs several years back and a holiday at the end of the year prompted me to go entirely off a hard drive.  I struggled for a week, like a heroin addict left with nothing but expired ritalin, but have now got comfortable, and you can read about my struggles elsewhere on the sidebars or archives.

One niggling issue was the interfaces being cluttered with ads, which look even more overpowering in full screen mode.  I have exhausted all that labs and settings have to offer me on all my google interfaces, and am reasonably convinced that I lose no productive time or effort due to these widgets and options.  I am should read I was, since this was true only till I discovered Minimalist for Gmail and soon after for Google Calendar.

I had already stripped my searches and added fasterfox refinements and other goodies, but my mail still came with bulky sidebars and headers and footers, which minimalist handled very efficiently and I cannot wait for the same features for reader and docs.

The reason I wrote this post was how I felt after seeing a friend post a screenshot of a google search for "love" with a sidebar ad from ebay offering it guaranteed cheap, new and used, and fastest delivery.  I don't have the opportunity to see ads or even the print and expand/collapse menus anymore.  And I like it.

The Question of Valentine

My  parents are married 50 years this month.  And neither of them of are easy to be with and I love them both with all of my life.  Without them I would not have been around to be with at all, forget about it being easier or less.  Read more about them at their blogs.  Google Surajit Dasgupta and Manju Dasgupta along with blogspot and you should find them.  There are two Surajit Dasguptas out there, I am sure it doesn't matter if you do find the right one.  As they chin up to the next several decades, I salute them.  I can shout out from atop the cellphone towers that they are my Valentines.

So are you, and you, and you, and yes, you too, and you, yes, you, and you, and you.  Let's see.  And you, you, you...  No, no, not you.  The one next to you..., yes.  That's right.  Mmm.  Yes, you too.  And...

Today is special to me for a few reasons, though none of them connected with Valentine.  Other than new beginnings, today is also the wedding anniversary of my best friend, now with two beautiful granddaughters.  In a couple of days he will wake up to the day he set sail with nothing more than fire in his heart, oh it seems such a long time ago.  Like every year, I call him, early in the day, and he is in the middle of work (he is an addict), and we both get thinking about what marriage, family, children, grandchildren, relationship stability, and a host of other related things mean.  We rarely talk about it but I know he understands what I feel about being disconnected.

From reality, that is.

At the wedding of a colleague's daughter, while waiting for the rites to get over so that we can bless the couple and resume our Sunday mornings, a very senior colleague of mine and I meet after many months, and I share with him what news I have to share and he tells me what he has to, and it is all about contested annulments and denied visitation rights, and we smile at the irony of the setting in which we are discussing this, with our fists full of turmeric'ed rice with bauble and fake pearls in it, standing in a queue of khadi clad reddy politicos with cameras on cranes craning to pick out faces worthy of being picked up.

Waiting another time on the weekend, this time while my brother bought a last minute V-Day gift for his wife, the channels threw the grammy's and the oscars at me, and I think of the struggles of so many lives devoted to artistic pursuit that go unrecognized.  Over at Kolkata, at my parents place, in the morning, a gathering of brahmo thought leaders, in the afternoon, a study meeting of lay buddhists, and in the evening a gathering of islamic scholars and intellectuals, sums up the Sunday for the firework couple, and I wonder if they needed a Valentine's day to remind them of anything.  Or say a Platinum Day of Love.

I am so glad at the corrections in the market, though not that thrilled when I look at the money lost in the last few weeks.  With Egypt learning from Tunisia, and China sitting on half of everything, and the internet making all things marxian possible, it is a matter of time before the financial systems kick out the values embodied in the concept of the illuminati.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Save money and get better service in 5 days

This is a how to

Open an account in a location of your liking.  The list is not too long.

Hone your skills till you are leading a large number of people, to a point that you either have enough money or people power, or till you climb up in public life, lay foundation stones and broker deals in defence and banking, and try and save as much as you can, wear khadi, cut back on transport expenses by passing it on to the common man whom you have led up the garden path, live frugally, enjoy the arts, and touch your paper statement only once, to throw it in the trashcan.

Got really excited over the last 18 months and how they have played out for telecom and the common man and his wealth.  2009 saw per second billing and the associated frills while reward programs were already making an appearance.  In November, Haryana tested the portability logistics, one year behind time while the majors bickered that they were not ready, much like a whore on her arranged wedding night.  Now it is here, the ads are thick and fast, and quality of services surely looks to be on some task lists.

Do read my post on how to change your provider without giving up on your number, and do it before it becomes stale news please.

What does number portability mean for us?

How many of us are aware of the silent war taking place between open source and mother commerce over the right to make data transmission and storage free to use.

Google Voice and other such applications are becoming the norm now. While we fret over how to send an SMS and get the paperwork together to get a new provider on our old cell number, here is what google is doing with number portability. http://goo.gl/6jjQb

Back on home turf, here is how you can get a new provider in roughly 5 days.

The portability request will be registered after the MNPSP receives an SMS from the customer, and the process starts with a reply to the sender informing the Unique Porting Code (UPC). UPC is a confirmation code consisting of 8 characters of which the first two shall be alphabets that denote the operator's code and service area code that have been specified by the authority.

'This code allocated to a subscriber shall be valid for a period of 15 days from the date of request or such time till the number is ported out, ” reported TRAI guideline. It would be catered to all service areas except Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and North East licensed areas where the validity period is of 30 days

MNPSP needs to retain the UPC number for verification of the request, as they are expected to maintain a database.

Customers also need to visit the respective outlet / showroom fill the Mobile Number Porting (MNP) form providing details like-current mobile number, current operator name and UPC code along with their documents (generation of UPC before/after the form filling depends on the respective operator).

Since, the recipient operator incurs a cost for the per port transaction charge which is payable to the MNPSP for processing the porting request, the respective operators are allowed by TRAI to charge a minimal amount (depending on the service provider) to the customer for the new connection (SIM card). This is a non-refundable amount.

After getting the data and verification, the customers receive porting date and time.

The No Service Period

Here comes the no service period. It is the period of time between the disconnection of the mobile telephone service to the porting subscriber by the donor operator and the activation of mobile telephone service, onporting, by the recipient operator. In a few cases, like Airtel, this period stays from 12am (midnight) to 5 am. After which, they can change the SIM and start using the services of the new operator. Any customer wanting to cancel the request for MNP should apply within 24 hours of the first request for UPC.

Before requesting for the move, the customers have to ensure that they have no dues remaining with the donor operator, and that the number is not expired one (though SIM card claim to give life-time validity).

So enjoy your life with your new provider or your old provider, a marriage is still a marriage!!


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