Archive for May, 2007

If you think Aamir Khan has a life you envy…

31 May 2007

Like most right-minded people, Peter Foster hates celebritydom of the manufactured kind. But even the real celebrities, he says, invoke more pity than envy.

The Delhi correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, London, Foster spent a day on set with Aamir Khan while playing the part of a British soldier as an extra in Rang De Basanti.

“The overwhelming impression of a day spent in Aamirji‘s life was that it was pretty miserable.

“The guy can’t even fart without an assistant to help him, and everywhere he goes, as if by magic, uncontrollable crowds assemble, clamouring for a little piece of the man.”

Read the full story here: Searching for star quality

When ‘fried calamari stopped play’ in Paarl

31 May 2007

Cricket is not quite the conversation topic any more, revealing in a way how warped our view of the game has become when “our” team isn’t winning.

Jason Monserrate jumpstarts the proceedings with an interesting cricket quiz.

1) Educated in Lahore and Oxford, this multi-faceted cricketer scored a hundred at the SCG on his Ashes debut for England and later was employed in the Indian Foreign Service. Name him.

2) Which fast bowler was given the middle names Alexei and McNamara (after the Soviet and American politicians) by his father whose name was Kissinger? His sister is named Golda.

3) Which Indian cricketer is also a fingerprint expert?

4) Who is the the only known Test cricketer to have been executed?

5) She played 7 tests for Australia. Her brother played 41 Tests. Her husband has stood in 10 ODIs. Name her.

Email the answers to: jason.mad@gmail.com

View more questions here: Cricket quiz

Link via India Uncut

Madness, megalomania, or hard-earned fruits?

31 May 2007

Mukesh Ambani is the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries. The elder son of Dhirubhai Ambani grew up, like the rest of the family, in a chawl (vottara) in Girgaum. He is married to Nita and the couple have three kids, Akash, Isha and Anant.

The Ambanis—Dhirubhai and Kokilaben, the brothers Mukesh and Anil, and their families—have lived for the better part of the last two decades in a 13-storey building called “Seawind” built amid much opposition from neighbours and environmentalists, in Cuffe Parade.

Now, Mukesh is building a home of his own called “Residence Antilia” on a 4,532 sq ft plot on Altamount Road, also in South Bombay, where the land rate is Rs 75,000 per square foot. Last night, the Hindi television channel Aaj Tak ran a 15-minute programme on “India’s Most Expensive House”, full of the kind of details that so enthrall Hindi viewers.

# Mukesh new home to accommodate the six members of his family—himself, his wife, their children, and his mother—is going to be 27 storeys tall.

# Although the “glass house” will be 27 storeys on the inside, its actual height of 173.12 metres will be equivalent to that of a 60-storey skyscraper from the outside.

# The value of the land on which the building is coming up is Rs 350 crore.

# The total built-up area is 4,500 square metres.

# The building will have three helipads.

# The first to sixth floors will be a parking lot, and 168 cars can be parked inside the house at any given time.

# Four of the 27 floors will be for the six-member family, two floors for guests.

# One floor, possibly the seventh, will be the workshop for the cars parked in the building.

# The 8h floor will house a 50-seater home theatre, complete with a balcony and a garden.

# One floor will be a beauty parlour, another will house a swimming pool and a gym.

Agreed, Mukesh Ambani is an uber-rich man and he cannot be expected to live like plebs. Agreed, it is his money and he is free to do what he wants to do with it. Agreed, in South Bombay, you can only build vertically. Agreed, he has to make a statement. And maybe, the new building will be a great new addition to the skyline in the city of dreams.

Still, is this the kind of conspicuous consumption that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was targetting?

One afternoon at the ‘kaal’ centre in the city

30 May 2007

There are pictures and then there are airbrushed pictures of the rising, shining, booming India. But do any of them come close to this one published in today’s Star of Mysore?

A team from Tamil Nadu is in Mysore to catch pigs. And—hold your breath, literally and figuratively—they communicate with each other and radio their locations through mobile phones.

The leader of the band is Ramanathan, and his visiting card apparently reads “Dog and Pig Catcher”. This is his number: 99642-47871.

“We will not leave a city until the last animal is captured. We cannot come to a city very often as we will be busy elsewhere,” he says.

Read the full article: Team well-connected

Welcome to the world of gargantuan welcomes

30 May 2007

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN, a former Philips executive himself, forwards a YouTube video of what new-age companies like Aditi Technologies are prepared to do to make new recruits feel at home on the day of their joining.

Rajeev Chandrashekhar eyeing Deccan Herald

30 May 2007

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who launched himself into India’s bulging billionaire club by selling his 67% stake in BPL Mobile, and became a Rajya Sabha member of the ruling JD(S) in Karnataka, is reportedly eyeing a stake in a Bangalore-based newspaper group that publishes Deccan Herald and Praja Vani.

Chandrashekhar, 43, currently chairman and managing director of Jupiter Capital, a firm with a focus on media, entertainment and technology ventures, already has a presence in radio and television. He owns Indigo Radio, an FM channel, and recently acquired the Malayalam television channel, Asianet. A Kannada channel is in the pipeline.

The erstwhile BPL scion, who is sitting on a cash pile of anywhere between Rs 1,400 crore and Rs 1,600 crore, wants to complete his media bouquet by getting into the print medium by picking up a slice of The Printers (Mysore) Private Limited, the publishers of Deccan Herald, Praja Vani, Sudha and Mayura.

Except…

Except that the family-owned media house is not for sale. Sure, it is cash-strapped. Sure, there is an internecine war that recently saw a change in the editorship of the publications. And twice in the last three years, there have been rumours that one of the three brothers, a different one each time, wanted to sell out; but they were hotly denied.

Therefore, Chandrashekhar, who himself was at the centre of a family squabble involving his father-in-law T.P.G. Nambiar over BPL mobile, is said to be using a backdoor route to gain entry into 75, M.G. Road.

Sources say Chandrashekhar is said to be interested in picking up the holdings of non-family members. As per the Form IV declaration of February 25, 2007, besides the three brothers, there are 12 shareholders—29 individuals in all—holding more than one per cent of the total capital of the company.

At least one of them is said to have evinced keen interest in Chandrashekhar’s offer. But there is a hitch. The change of editorship issue is before the Company Law Board. Till that is resolved, the shares cannot change hands. And even if the shareholder wants to divest, the first offer has to be made to the family. Will the family spurn the silver?

Moreover, will picking up these small holdings give Chandrashekhar controlling power, which is his ultimate gameplan? Maybe not, but media analysts say at least it will give him a foot in the door in Bangalore, where the newspaper market has been red-hot for over a decade now and market leader Deccan Herald has been caught napping time and time again.

Cross-posted on sans serif

Illustration courtesy: The Telegraph, Calcutta

India’s stand at the G-8 summit is all gas

30 May 2007

Manmohan Singh is to attend the G-8 summit next week. And an interesting story in The Telegraph, Calcutta, says the Prime Minister will tell the world’s richest nations that India doesn’t have to cut the emission of greenhouse gases because:

# Indians eat less meat and so are more restrained in emitting gases than people in the West.

# The country belches less gas because its elite is used to eating leftovers.

# Vegetarian societies contribute little to gas emissions. And Indians use fuel-efficient automobiles rather than fume-spewing ones.

Read the full story: Country is clean, thank the elite

Read Scott Adams‘ take on global warming

CHURUMURI POLL: Arjun Singh for President?!

29 May 2007

Indian politics, if it weren’t so real, could have easily been a page ripped off Ripley‘s Believe It or Not. Just when you thought that the race for the next President was getting predictable, Sonia Gandhi has hurled a cute chinaman. In her discussions with DMK chief M. Karunanidhi, the UPA chief reportedly threw up the names of Pranab Mukherjee, Sushilkumar Shinde, Shivaraj Patil, and hold your breath, HRD minister Arjun Singh.

Admittedly, the Congress doesn’t want to waste Mukherjee in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, although he has support of the Left parties. And there is a Dalit angle to Shinde that appeals to Karunanidhi and Mayawati. But Arjun Singh? The man who has done a V.P. Singh and split the country diametrically? Should Arjun Singh, who has done more than most to upset the Manmohan Singh applecart, be rewarded  with the keys to the Rashtrapati Bhavan?

VINOD MEHTA on what to read, how to write

29 May 2007

Vinod Mehta is India’s Last Great Editor.

As puppy publishers, egged on by tobacco peddlers, softdrinks salesmen, and milkpowder accountants with calculators, strip Indian journalism of its relevance and conscience with a vengeance, the editor-in-chief of Outlook holds a mirror to what could have been.

And as puppet editors sway with the wind and sidle up to the powers-that-be for Rajya Sabha seats, ambassadorships, advisory posts, and the other loaves of office that politicians dangle before salivating journalists, Mehta’s fierce independence is an object lesson of what should be.

Former editor of the men’s magazine Debonair; founder-editor of India’s original weekly newspaper, The Sunday Observer; and editor of The Independent and The Pioneer dailies, Mehta is a master brewer who, over 30 years, has perfected the art of making the important interesting, and shown that good journalism needn’t be bad business.

Alive and articulate, quirky and contrarian, and never boring, Mehta can also write. In this 12-minute churumuri video, the 63-year-old editor talks on the critical reading journalists and journalism students should do; and on how they should approach the craft of writing.

Cross-posted on sans serif

Make every little drop count this monsoon

29 May 2007

G.N. MOHAN forwards a frame he captured at a theme park in Bijapur, and writes:

Sunny days are about to come to an end.

‘Mungaaru Male’ is around the corner.

Intead of just singing ‘Enu ninna hanigala leele…

Let’s save a bit of it, too

‘Prime Minister is suffering from Ruler’s Disease’

29 May 2007

The economist Ashok V Desai has a delightful response to the Prime Ministr’s annual sermon to industrialists, and says Manmohan Singh has picked up the Ruler’s Disease.

“The state makes money without having to earn it; it takes money away from people by force. It is difficult for anyone to live on unearned income unless he can reassure himself that he is doing some good unrelated to his take. Monarchs used to harbour illusions that the kingdom was bestowed on them by heaven. Conquerors and occupiers by force believe that they have saved their territories from worse rulers. Pervez Musharraf illustrates this illusion well.

“Elected rulers forget how accidental the results of most elections are. They like to believe that they are specially beloved of, and morally obliged to promote the interests of, the people who elected them; in a competitive system they also want to shower favours on people at others’ cost who they hope would elect them next time. The combination of power and illusion has led rulers unduly and unnecessarily to interfere in the lives of people, most often with good intentions.

“In his 40-year career, the prime minister has risen from the ranks to the top of the men and women who rule India. On the way, he picked up the ruler’s disease. The prime minister preached: “The time has come for the better-off sections of our society — not just in organized industry but in all walks of life — to understand the need to make our growth process more inclusive; to eschew conspicuous consumption; to save more and waste less; to care for those who are less privileged and less well off; to be role models of probity, moderation and charity.”

“As others fall in love with beautiful women, the prime minister falls in love with beautiful phrases. For some years his favourite phrase was “development with a human face”; then he changed over to “inclusive growth”. These are only the latest euphemisms for income redistribution. Politicians across the world love redistribution. It serves their interests, for the poor are more numerous and have more votes than the rich.”

Red the full article: A minatory mind

The class monitor who takes the paper rockets

29 May 2007

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Sonia Miss was going through the final exam papers and it was time to write the ‘Progress Report’ of her wards for one last time.

As she flipped thro’ the sheets of papers comprising Home work, Essays, Composition and Impositions (‘I will not…’), she knew all of them were loyal to the core and would do anything to be in her good books.

She was ready to write the confidential report on the first student of her class.

Arjun: the senior-most member of the class likes only maths and likes in particular irrational numbers, vulgar fractions like 33 1/3%. Still weak in A-B-C, but keeps over-writing on O-B-C. Have to promote him otherwise it’s T-C for the overaged kid from the school.”

Then she wrote on the next student.

Anbu: Has a great liking for Ward-fights and picks up a few on his daily rounds like a bull-dog. For his persistent problems like piles, measles and kidney stone, believes applying Pepsi is the best medicine. Have to promote him for keeping peace in school.”

Sharad: Is really a kidult moving as an adult. He can’t distinguish between paddy field and cricket field and has failed in both. Coupled with his incoherence and unreadable mind he is a teacher’s nightmare.”

Kamal: Has a problem in keeping his attendance up and was in school only a month for the whole year. He tours all over the world with his godfathers in the US and UK, but brings me gifts from IMF, G-36 meetings etc. Has a weakness for holding never-ending rounds of talks on tariffs. If I don’t promote him, the flow of my Italian lasagnas and pastas will stop.”

Chidu: Is supposed to be the best in the class and quotes from Thiruvalluvar and Subramnaya Bharathi often whether anybody understand or not. He is supposed to get ‘dream’ marks, but is yet to deliver the goods. When he is wearing his native dress, I have problem in making out whether he is coming in or going away! Have to retain him for the time being.”

Although one of the students is not attending school anymore, Sonia Miss still decided to evaluate him.

Maran: Was admitted into the class, mainly because of influence, but surprisingly did well. His guardians suddenly yanked him off the school because of family fights.  Right now, this boy is c/o footpath. They have also stolen his TV set.”

Next, she got to the class Monitor.

“Although Mohan is the class monitor, he is so quiet, everybody including the teacher thinks he is absent. Other boys come in and go out at will, do soo-soo in class, throw paper rockets at him, still he is cool. I wonder if I was right in making him the class monitor, but  is the best choice till I replace him with a younger, more dashing cute kid.”

Finally, she wrote about Rahul, the trainee who will remain in the class and results will not affect him.

“Has a great future because of the blue bloodline, tends to shoot his mouth once in a while, but that is a trait in the family, because of which he will scale new heights. Failed badly in the selection exam, but success is guaranteed for him.  I will have to ensure this somehow.”

***

Do you have inputs for Sonia Miss for others in the class such as Mani, Pranab et al? Share it with us.

BCCI and Infosys: Made for each other in Mysore

28 May 2007

ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: There is good news and bad news for cricket fans in Mysore. The good news first: the Board of Control for Cricket in India is to hold a five-day camp for bowlers from June 4 in preparation for the upcoming tours of England and Ireland.

Followers of the game in the City of Palaces can look forward to seeing in flesh and blood their sultans of swing, and the wizards of the wobble and weave: 14 of them including Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan, S. Sreesanth and Munaf Patel, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

Well, dream on.

The bad news is that the camp is to be held at a fortress that rivals a nearby nuclear establishment in its impenetrable security: namely, the Infosys Global Training Centre in Hebbal Industrial Area.

Timely note: this piece is not about Infosys. It is about BCCI. Yes, not about Infosys, about BCCI.

The bowlers’ camp may be great education for the hundreds of Infosys trainees living on the campus, if they are allowed to go out and see, that is. But for Mysore’s cricket fans, fanatics and followers, the camp is a letdown because a camp at Infosys is a case of so near and yet so far.

Why, you wonder, is the richest cricket body in the world so openly obliged to a private software company for hospitality and facilities? When the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) has leased the Gangothri Glades stadium from the University of Mysore for a pittance in the heart of the City, why does BCCI want to conduct the camp in a secluded place?

Maybe there are good reasons for both those questions. In Baroda, for instance, BCCI makes use of the hospitality of IPCL, the Reliance-owned petrochemical company. And in Jameshedpur, it banks on the Tatas. If that is OK, what is wrong in using Infosys’ help, you may ask.

The problem is two-fold.

Problem One: Infosys bought those hundreds of acres for a song to build a training centre that is quickly morphing into a software centre. Its cricket stadium is magnificent, yes, but it is a white elephant trampling on farmers’ land. How morally right is that?

Problem Two: The Infosys stadium is inaccessible and spectator-unfriendly as the only two matches of note held there (women’s World Cup and a Ranji Trophy tie between Karnataka and Bengal) showed.

It’s not at a distance where a young boy interested can cycle up to. Worse, ordinary fans are not allowed to go inside. Matches and events held there are open only to a select few who could pull the right strings in Bangalore and Mysore.

When a great and very public game is kept alive by fans, why should matches or practice be held in private as if it were some club event of the rich and the privileged?

Maybe, the Infosys campus has facilities. And, by jove, they would. But what has prevented BCCI or KSCA from developing those facilities in Mysore (or anytown India)? What have they done with all the crores they have minted from television rights and matches?

Infosys’s cricket stadium is not open to local sportspersons wanting to conduct a camp or hold a match. Why does it open it to the KSCA or BCCI, if it isn’t currying favour with cricket’s big bosses—besides extracting some more free publicity on television and in the newspapers?

Maybe (although it is unlikely) Infosys is providing the ground, the boarding and lodging facilities for a price. But is this legal? Maybe the inaccessibility will allow the bowlers to concentrate. But aren’t they eventually going to play before mammoth crowds baying for their blood?

To me, the shame of it all lies with BCCI. Despite its riches, it wants to to take its players to a City where it has no created no facilities that its players can use, and has to depend on infrastructure built by an organisation that has nothing to do with cricket.

What can be a bigger epitaph to the current state of Indian cricket than that?

‘It’ll be a disaster if India progresses like West’

28 May 2007

What exactly is progress? And when can we be said to have achieved it? Is it progress when double-digit growth translates into personal prosperity, palatial bungalows,  trendy malls and fancy cars for a madly consumerist few? Or is it progress only when everybody gets a chance to hop on to the bandwagon without imperilling the environment?

And are all those who advocate the latter view retrograde reactionaries if not blazing red commies who, while enjoying  the fruits of progress, are seeking to deny it to the rest of their countrymen and women?

Sir Mark Tully, the BBC’s voice of India for more than two decades, has a new book out, India’s Unending Journey: Finding Balance in a Time of Change. And in it he makes a simple point: that the world is making a mistake by equating India’s software prowess, the export of Bollywood films, the middle-class’ clamour for cars and foreign travel, as a sign of progress.

“When I first went to India the picture was of a country riddled with poverty, a hopeless place which was described as ‘living from ship to mouth’ because it was so dependent on food aid. I always struggled to try to portray the other sides of India without denying there was poverty…

“Now there is a reverse situation where people are being simplistic about the progress India has made; glibly talking about India as the great economic power of the future, without realising and remembering that there are enormous problems India has to address, and without discussing the way that India should develop economically.”

In an interview with The Independent, London, Sir Mark makes an additional point that is so commonsensical but rare in our gung-ho, anything-goes media culture. Which is that India should not make the same mistake as viewing progress through the same prism as the West.

“I firmly believe that the way the West has developed economically is unbalanced and that if India develops in this way, it is going to be very dangerous for it. Growth in the West is driven by consumerism, which is unbalanced and unhealthy, because it inspires greed. We all need to consume things, but that must be kept in balance. It is also unbalanced because of what we are doing to nature, the amount of energy we consume.”

What do Indians make of his words of caution, now that greater riches appear to be in their sights?

“Some Indians say ‘You are trying to stop India becoming like other countries and stop us enjoying the kind of things the West enjoys,'” he admits. “But one of the things I admire and love about India is that it’s a hugely open society. I’m a foreigner after all, and yet I can go around India and say these things about where I think India is going wrong and I’m listened to with respect and interest, though by no means always with agreement.”

Read the full interview here: ‘It’s always a question of balance’

How democratic are our political parties?

28 May 2007

Political parties are vital cogs in the juggernaut called democracy. The more well-oiled they are, the better their ball bearings rub, the smoother democracy rolls. Debate, discussion, dissent are all vital lubricants in the great ride. But how democratic are our parties?

OTOH, you have the Gowdas and Karunanidhis, Pawars and Thackerays, Abdullahs and Yadavs, on top of the Gandhis of course, who think politics is a chromosomal condition—handed down generations through their god-given genes. OTOH, there is a regular Indian spectacle that makes you start doubting.

V.S. Achutanandan and Pinnarayi Vijayan start sumo-wrestling in their veshtis and they are suspended from the CPI(M) politbureau. Mani Shankar Aiyar says the Manmohan Singh government is losing its way and Ambika Soni springs up to announce that he shouldn’t be discussing cabinet issues in public.

All this passes in the name of maintaining party discipline when media perception matters. But is democracy about protecting party discipline or letting the people know? Are our parties shamelessly quelling dissent and muzzle public opinion? Does an electorate that only knows what slips out of the lubricated mouths of the spokespersons know enough to make up its opinion?

Ms Lakshmi: come fast, come fast, don’t be slow

28 May 2007

Purandaradasa‘s Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma undergoes a delightful transmogrification at a humour festival as the guru takes ill and a stand-in takes centrestage. Former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna is among those enjoying the rendition. But it speaks for the kind of hypersensitive times we live in that the guys who have put up the Google video actually have to remind the audience that it should be heard with tongue firmly rolled in cheek.

Savour the original lyrics here: Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma

‘Fighting corruption is difficult, not impossible’

28 May 2007

J.N. JAYASHREE writes: Thank you very much for your interest in and support of my husband, M.N. Vijaya Kumar. I am not able to individually reply because I have to pursue many appeals. I will be responding seperately to those who have given specific suggestions or informed me specific cases.

With so many lending their support from all across the world, we are much safer today. My husband anticipated all such troubles to come and I also joined him and took up the issues independently. Considering the type of people against whom we are fighting, I decided to inform the problems we are facing through the website http://fightcorruption.freespaces.com. Most of the problems including the frequent transfers were expected. But we decided to move cautiously but not secretively, otherwise the corrupt would be laughing at our bodies today.

It appears there is some problem with http://fightcorruption.freespaces.com. It appears that freespaces is updating its system. I have therefore put all the information on my wiki-site, http://jayashree.wikidot.com. Please bear with the name of the wiki-site till alternate arrangements are made.

I have created a forum for all those interested to participate. Please go through the various categories at the forum and see how you can help by visiting the following link http://jayashree.wikidot.com/forum:start. Messages can be posted anonymously without becoming a member. However, to edit and contribute, one has to become a member.

Most of the pages allow per-page commenting. You can participate in its improvement. To edit pages you have to become a member of the wiki-site. To become a member visit http://jayashree.wikidot.com/system:join.

Please go through the reports/letter on the homepage to get an idea of what is happening right now. The fight against corruption is very tough but not absolutely impossible. If a large number of dedicated people put their efforts in a coordinated manner we may be able to make major dents in the shield protecting the corrupt.

You can see already some of the results because of the sustained efforts made in the last eight months to expose how the Chief Secretary himself was deliberately dismantling anti-corruption systems to shield the corrupt. My husband’s 25 years’ experience fighting corruption has shown that to get effective results the corrupt bureaucracy at the top should be attacked. The summary is given in my letter dated 21/5/07 addressed to the Governor. You can see this letter here http://jayashree.wikidot.com/govletter.

As you can see the forum has many categories which you can improve. You please invite your friends to join us. We are very grateful to all our well wishers. We want the help of all from every corner of the world. I am happy to inform you that the local newspapers and various TV channels have reported our fight against corruption and some of them have already started working with us. We also want to thank all of you who have initiated actions in various manners.

Please also inform the new wiki-site address to your friends. We thank you once again and will be extremely happy to work together to fight corruption. As the wiki-site is new , there will be frequent additions. Please visit the ‘what is new’ section often. There is a Complaint section to which complaints can be sent and those interested in solving them can take up those complaints.

The most imitated theme song on planet earth

26 May 2007

Just what is it about the theme song of Mission: Impossible that so mesmerises musicians, music teachers, and music lovers? The original TV serial was made nearly four decades ago. But the cinematic rendition of Lalo Schrifrin‘s brilliant theme song has given a new lease of life as every day, somewhere, somebody tries to recapture the magic on some new instrument or the other.

The original song from the first six episodes of the television serial have been collated in the video at the very top. Then, in descending order, an American high school orchestra plays the song at their spring concert; a Japanese group plays a violin version; Paolo Sereno plays the finger guitar version; and Mandron plays the paino version. And there are hundreds more on YouTube.

Is there an Indian equivalent that provokes such imitation?

Is Manmohan Singh barking up the wrong tree?

25 May 2007

For someone who opened the floodgates of liberalisation, which put the individual ahead of the “State” at the centre of the Indian universe, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a most incredible speech on Thursday at the annual session of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

# While attempting to enhance profits, the private sector should function within the bounds of “decency and greed” and show some self-restraint.

# The business community should resist excessive remuneration so as to reduce conspicuous consumption.

# He warned that “showing off the riches through ostentatious parties is as good as insulting the less-privileged and stoking social unrest.”

# Corporate social responsibility should not be defined by tax planning strategies alone. Corporates should factor in the needs of the community and the region.

No doubt, these are the kind of stately things to say for a Prime Minister at stiff business meets like these. But is Manmohan Singh barking up the wrong tree?

Can the State dictate the profits of business houses in this day and age? Can corporates in a competitive atmosphere get the best talent without dangling big cheques? Can the State prevent individuals from enjoying the fruits of their hard work and talents? And after creating jobs and paying due taxes, should businesses try to run society?

Or…

Is a sage economist being sagacious enough in recognising the simmering undercurrents in a Bharat that has been left out? Or is he echoing the deep anguish and desperateness of a Congress which, after coming to power on the back of the aam admi, is losing in state after state?

In other words, is he trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube?

My name is Antony Gonsalves. Do you know…

25 May 2007

Today, May 25, is the death anniversary of Laxmikant of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal music composer duo. The two, of course, scored music for scores of movies, one of which is Manmohan Desai‘s Amar Akbar Antony (above) in which Amitabh Bachchan springs out of a easter egg and sings “My name is Antony Gonsalves.”

Question No. 1: In real life, who was Antony Gonsalves?

Question No. 2: And what is the origin of the line, “sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity” which Kishore Kumar utters in the beginning?

The full line, for those interested, is: “Wait, wait, wait. You see, the whole country of the system is juxtaposition by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity…”

CHURUMURI POLL: Should we ‘purify’ temples?

25 May 2007

Priests at the Guruvayur Temple have just conducted a mahapunyham to “purify” the temple after the family of minister for overseas development Vayalar Ravi conducted a ceremony. Their “crime”: Although Ravi is a Hindu, his daughter-in-law is a Christian and the temple’s rules do not permit the entry of non-Hindus in the august presence of Guruvayurappan.

Just a couple of months ago, the Jagannath temple in Puri threw away food cooked for 7,000 people after the priests insisted that the temple had been “defiled” by the entry of an American tourist. The case of K.J. Yesudas being denied entry because of his religion is more than two decades old, and more recently there was the brouhaha over the entry of Jayamala to Sabarimala.

Questions: Do such rites really “purify” our temples? Are temples within their rights to conduct such “purification” rituals? Or, in barring people on the lines of caste, religion and gender, are they perpetuating a new form of untouchability? Should these rigid, regressive man-made rules be junked? Or is this, as usual, yet another secular, slash pseudo-secular assault on Hindu customs and traditions, while ignoring mosques and churches which reserve the right of entry in their own ways?

The mother of all movie lists and countdowns

24 May 2007

There are lists and then there are some more lists. But is there any list, any countdown, as captivatingly and painstakingly compiled as Alonzo Mosley‘s? This is a list of 100 films, 100 films quotes, and 100 numbers. And from each film there is a number. In descending order. Enjoy. Or else.

Alonzo Mosley’s blog

Link via The Daily Telegraph, London

Is Bangalore getting expensive for IT startups?

24 May 2007

Riya, a California tech firm, has just upped and left Bangalore. Reason: It was getting just too expensive for the startup in Silicon Halli.

Too expensive to hire top-flight talent from the best schools. Too expensive to keep experienced guys on board beyond a point. Plus, the pressure of having two offices, with one working while the other slept, was telling on everybody. The opportunity to leverage cost difference was no longer available. And, therefore, the ROI—return on investment—was getting lower and slower.

Munjal Shah, the firm’s CEO, writes:

“There is an employee of ours who took the first 5 years of his career to get from 1% to 10% of his equivalent US counterpart. He then jumped from 10% to 20% of his US counterpart in the next 1 year. During his time with us (less than 2 years) he jumped to 55% of the US wage. In the next few months we would have had to move him to 75% just to “keep him at market.”

It’s OK, says Shah, for big companies like Infosys and IBM to train new graduates, but he believes other startups in Bangalore will see the same issue in the next 12-24 months.

“I was one of the biggest India advocates you’ve ever met (I still am) but it is clear the primary business drivers of Bangalore are changing and with it the city must change.”

Read the full story here: India grows up

The never-ending bloody nautanki of Lee-Hesh

24 May 2007

Mahesh Bhupathi said yesterday that he was ready to pair up once again with Leander Paes for the Beijing Olympics although he isn’t too sure whether he should once again be on talking terms with his Calcutta-based partner.

“Logically, teaming up again is the best decision that could be. We can play and try winning a medal for India at the Olympics,” Bhupathi said.

Is it really?

Best for whom? For them or for us?

Is this largeness of spirit of Mahesh because of tennis?

Are they doing this for the nation as they would like the nation to believe?

Or is it all about money, honey? A never-ending, sickening nautanki of “Now we are fine, Now we are not” as long as the sponsors’ dollars keep rolling and the bank balances’ keep swelling?

India’s most successful doubles pair has been at daggers drawn for years now. Their chest-thumping relationship reached what can only charitably be called the nadir at the Asian Games in Doha after Paes accused his partner of not taking things seriously after India’s loss to Chinese Taipei. More recently, Bhupati sat out of a Davis Cup match.

And they still harbour hopes of a comeback!

Yes, the two have brought more medals for India on the international stage, save maybe Viswanathan Anand. But after all the cheap shots the country has been witness to, for what earthly reason should the Indian Olympic Committee, and the All India Tennis Association, pick up the tab for a fresh honeymoon?

Is India’s flourishing tennis landscape so devoid of talent that it cannot find two young boys who can carry the flame forward? Yes, they may not win a medal but who cares as long as you can keep these self-serving brats out, as long as you have an eye on the future?

Also read: Revealed: How the Paes-Bhupati split began

BREAKING NEWS / FLASH / UPDATE: GOD QUITS

24 May 2007

Amit Varma has landed the scoop of the year: God’s resignation letter scooped from very highly placed sources. Can we blame Her?

Dear Humans

This is to inform you that I quit. I have enjoyed being God for an eternity now—thank you for the opportunity—but I cannot bear the thought of going on and on like this. Enough is enough. I have informed my angels of my impending resignation, though I didn’t expect them to rush off to buy horns and black clothing right away. This Sunday will be my last day in office, after which I intend to spend some time with my family. (Ok, I’m kidding about the family. Heh.)

Read the full letter here: God resigns

If you or anybody you know would like to fill the vacancy, please write in to invisible@pinkunicorn.god


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