Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Ganguly saga

One of the things that distinguishes a country of great culture is the manner in which it treats its stars. When the stars are 'starring', they are not given unnecessary privileges. When they no longer shine, they aren't discarded. The recent BCCI behaviour w.r.t Saurav Ganguly fails on both counts.

First, they dump a player who has done yoeman service to Indian cricket in the most unceremonious fashion. Don't get me wrong - I am no fan of Ganguly's batting. And with recent failures his captaincy too had come under a cloud. Still, here was a man who with John Wright and other senior players, fashioned a fighting unit out of the Indian team. Here was a man who had the audacity and guts to return Andy Flintoff's shirtless compliment in the mother of cricket grounds. A man who blooded Harbhajan Singh, Kaif, Yuvraj, and countless others, sticking with them through their worst days. And how do the selectors treat him? They select him for a test series, which clearly was patronising, and then dump him after a single test, that too in a press conference!!!

What else could have been done? Well, a more respectable alternative would have been to talk to Ganguly, tell him that his services were no longer required, and that he should announce his retirement. Do this before the test series. And if you have to select him, make sure that he has a memorable retirement match - like the one the Australians gave Steve Waugh.

Having ignored to do that, we now have the ignominy of one of India's premier cricketers having to go through a media spectacle, with supporters blocking traffic, with parliament discussing his performance, and with Sharad Pawar 'consoling' him publicly. Further, he is patronized - by selecting him for a series he is surely not going to play in, that too at the expense of young talent like Kaif. As a result, everyone walks out damned. Ganguly, because it now is public that he is in the team for reasons other than performance, The BCCI, because of its crude handling of the entire affair, and the Calcutta public, for the shameful behaviour.

Unfortunately, this is a very Indian trait - callous behaviour, insensitivity to a person's feelings, and utter shamelessness and unaccountability.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Intel and Oregon

Chidanand Rajghatta of the ToI group reports about Intel's investments in Oregon. He says
"According to one estimate, Intel has ploughed in $11 billion over the past two decades, and has now announced that it will step it up to $25 billion over the next 15 years. A company that was powered by a Hungarian immigrant (Andy Grove) and is headquartered in Santa Clara, California, is now counted as Oregon’s own.Meanwhile, back home, Karnataka’s corrosive politicians turn their backs on Bangalore’s own. "

How sad. Read it to see how politicians in other countries actually work to improving the lives of their constituents, as opposed to those in India.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Vikram, on TV?

One (dis)advantage of coming here to the US is that I get to watch reruns and reruns of old shows like Friends, Frasier, Raymond and the like. In all of these, I keep a watch for anything Indian (South Asian). Seinfeld had an Indian wedding and a Pakistani restauranteer, Simpsons had an Indian grocer, but there weren't many others.

But, I was watching Friends today, and Ross makes up a boyfriend for Phoebe to convince Mike that she has been in an long-term relationship before. And what is his name? Vikram! Or Vikram Mookherjee, as Phoebe calls him - a smooth-talking kite designer.

Nice. Any others you guys are aware of?

Friday, November 18, 2005

When'll this end?

See what this idiot has to say
I have sent a rebuttal to DH, will post a link to it if it gets published.

Well, DH didn't publish it - here goes:

I was aghast to read Mr. Krishna Prasad's letter, published in the Deccan Herald (DH, Friday, Nov 18th).
Doesn't Mr. Prasad realize that good roads that can handle traffic and that don't become lakes after an afternoon downpour are the right of everyone in the city (or in a village)? And that the IT chiefs whom he accuses of "frothing at the mouth" are as much citizens of this city as he is? And that they are infact doing what every self-respecting citizen of this city should be doing? Asking for their rights?
Since when has it become a crime to ask for your rights? Disparities occur in states not because companies ask for infrastructure in select pockets, but they occur because of lopsided governance. They occur because of an incompetent and corrupt government, and lackadaisical journalism that refuses to ask the right questions, and condemns people that do. So, don't blame the IT companies, Mr. Prasad, blame the government. Ask Dharam Singh why Bangalore became a lake. Ask Krishna, and above all, ask Deve Gowda why he has become such a roadblock to development.
The tirade against IT companies has gone on for too long. The IT sector is known for its high standards of corporate governance. They are paragons of efficiency in a country that cannot even lay a decent asphalted road. When will we come out of this crab mentality, and see the truth - that the IT sector is being targetted by vested interests, only to parade their pro-poor identities?
For heavens' sake, what the IT companies are voicing is the desire of every Bangalorean, be it a slum dweller or a mansion owner. In fact, who suffered more during the recent rains in Bangalore? And why did they suffer? Is it because of the "big, bad, frothing at the mouth" IT chiefs, or is it because of third-rate governance? Better roads, better electricity, better water are everyone's right. And that includes IT chiefs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What Kapil knows...

Manmoron doesn't...

In particular, Kapil says:

"In other words, there is far more movement than there was earlier. But given the fact that travel time, essentially by road, is extremely slow and taxing, efficiency and manpower utilisation is shrinking.
It’s a vicious circle: if movement becomes difficult or cumbersome, there will be no growth. Suburbs around cities will come up but not get inhabited, there will be no investment and it will contribute to the overall slowdown of the economy. Rural areas will not develop and advance if people do not move. "

What a tragedy. My vote for Kapil, if he ever stands for election.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Educational Improvements

Many suggestions have been floated on how to improve our education system, particularly at the primary level. More teachers, teacher training, mid-day meals, even a law that punishes parents who don't send their kids to school.

Here is my suggestion. Incentivize parents to send their kids to school. Pay parents to send their children to school. The reason why parents don't send their kids to school is because they are only looking for short-term gains. Send the male child to work and you get a few rupees for either your dinner or your drink. Keep the girl child at home, and she'll help with the household chores. Now, there is an incentive to send the child to school - money. There are ways to make this scheme work. Pay more if the girl child is sent. Don't pay the parents in cash - instead, open a bank account, and provide access through the "fingerprint" ATMs that are being developed in India.

Critics of this plan will point out the revenue implications of this scheme. I don't think this scheme has any worse revenue implications than the "National Rural Employment Guarantee Act" that is being proposed. In fact, it should be more welcome as it is now possible to kill two birds with one stone - give money to the poorest of the poor, while letting their children get an education.

What says y'all?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Server market stats

According to IDC, Windows server shipments matched Unix server shipments for the first time ever, in terms of revenue. Interesting, eh?

See this link for more:

Flames, anyone? ;)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Published, at last!!!

Something I wrote finally got selected for publication as an Op-Ed in Indian Express:

Comments welcome, as usual.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Simple solutions to difficult problems - 1

Previously, I've ranted about many of the problems facing our country on my blog. Now, I want to start a series of posts on how we can solve them (easily).

The first in this series is on primary education. How do we fix the quality problems with government schools? Here is my solution. Force every politician and bureaucrat to send their children to government schools. This way, when their own future is at stake, they'll fix things. After all, we know of the 24X7 electricity, and water that are available to these guys...

Comments welcome as usual...

Jai Bajrangbali

Funny title for a post, eh? Well, this post is actually devoted to Sachin! Like almost every other Indian with warm blood in his/her veins, I've enjoyed Sachin's cricketing exploits. And like almost every other Indian, I've cringed at the sight of his batting for the last couple of years with the exception of the World Cup.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that Sachin is a lot like Lord Hanuman. In 1991, he flew to the sun (Australia), and conquered the land. In the later years, he grew, every time showing the strength and dignity of Hanuman. Funny enough, like Hanuman, Sachin was best when he was a senior minister, not the king. Ofcourse, like the Lord, he has also been absolutely selfless, sincere, hardworking, honest, loyal, and totally committed to his job and country.

Readers of the Ramayan will surely know of the curse put on Hanuman - that he wouldn't realize his own strengths. Sachin has suffered from the same curse in recent years. The flashy cover drive was gone, as was the light jump to hoick Shane Warne over his head. Second-rate bowlers became stars, taking his wicket regularly.

But someone has done the job of Jambuvan - someone has told Sachin what he really is - and man, does it show!!!

Welcome back, Sachin. And Jai Bajrangbali!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Endaro Mahanubhavulu...(1)

For those who are not familiar with Carnatic music, the title of this post means..."So many great people". On my blog, I plan to post regularly, less known anecdotes and stories of great Indians.

I shall start with Satyendra Nath Bose. Many of us don't know (and I didn't know till today) that S N Bose was a close associate of Einstein's and that there is even a fundamental particle named after him (no prizes for guessing this is the Boson). The story goes that Bose wanted a job as a professor at one of the newly opened research universities in India, but he did not have a PhD, and so was asked to get a recommendation from someone who knew his work. Well, who else, but Einstein recommended him, saying that his country men did not realize that his work was far more significant than any PhD thesis!

If you are interested in knowing more, follow this link:

My question to all those textbook re-writing ignoramus-es, particularly those from the 'nationalistic' BJP is this: Why in the world don't you fight to introduce stories like these in our text books?

Friday, October 21, 2005

An ODE to C++

Well, not exactly, an ode, but...

C++ is the best! Its like a bottomless well, you know, the deeper you go, the deeper you can go. You can never get bored of C++, and probably never 'know' C++

Anyways, people who disagree are free to spam me through the comments link.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sir M.V

For those who are from Karnataka, the letters M.V, particularly when prefixed with "Sir" mean only one thing - Sir. Mokshagundam Vishveshvarayya (or Visvesvaraya, as Bangalore University likes to spell it). Yesterday was the 144th birth anniversary of Sir M.V. This post is a personal "Thank you" to the man who
  • Built the K.R.S dam
  • Brought electricity to Bangalore
  • Started Mysore University
  • Created U.V.C.E (started as a Mechanical Engg. school)
  • Influential in starting the State Bank of Mysore
  • and so on and so forth...

Sir MV was known for his discipline, punctuality, honesty, work ethic, and probably every positive adjective that you can think of. Extremely quality conscious, he is said to have checked every pillar and beam that went into the Kannambadi dam. A brilliant engineer, he is said to have exclaimed "what a waste of energy!" when he saw the gushing waters of the Jog Falls. Honest to a fault, he is said to have turned off the 'state-supplied' candle and used his own when he finished work and was handling personal correspondence. It is officials like him that gave Mysore state the sobriquet 'Model State' in the early-late 40s.

As the poet said..."Jaane kahan gaye voh (din) log?"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wah Sania

Being one of the more tricolourly inclined, Sania Mirza's performance over the last one week (indeed, over the past one year) has made me proud. She portrays a great image of the young Indian woman - smart, aggresive, one focused on her goals. Not to mention what a role model she is for women in general and Muslim women in particular. And she is a great advertisement for India, far better than any "India Shining" campaign.

True, she lost quite badly to Sharapova, but hey, this is just her first US Open. A few years down the line, and I am sure we'll see a better contest.

Here is hoping that we see more Sanias, Rajyavardhans and Anju Bobby Georges.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Bangalore is surely a funny name for a city, ain't it? But in the new dispensation, the city has been living up to its name...Ban - galore. Ban traffic in the city centre, Ban private vehicles from taking children to schools, Ban cellphones in colleges, Ban dance bars, Ban this, Ban that.

But, don't ban corruption, don't ban potholes, don't ban polluters, don't ban anything that would actually make the citizen's life a little better.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

So, what _should_ you learn in your undergraduate course?

I am working on a Unix course for undergraduate students, sponsored by the company I work for. To aid us in deciding what to teach, we were given the syllabus for the students, from the 3rd to the 8th semester. Reading it raised the obvious question: "What should you (a student) learn in your undergraduate Computer Science and Engg. course?" Infact, I'll ask a more basic question - what should be the goal of your undergraduate education?

Surely, the undergraduate course is but an introduction to your desired field. No one expects a person to be an expert in the field after an undergraduate degree. That said, you are expected to know stuff. Here is my list of what an undergraduate degree should accomplish:

- Enough knowledge of the field.
- Enough English/Language skills to be able to write about what you know
- Enough practical experience...if your 'Major' was Computer Science - you should be able to program. If it was Electrical Engg, you should be comfortable with opening up 3-phase motors. If it was Mechanical Engg, you should be able to tear down an automobile, if not put it back together :) .
- Some ability at feasibility analysis...if you are a Political science student, you should be able to recognize that communism is unfeasible ;)
- If you're in the technical field, Math. Probably the most invaluable tool this side of the border
- If you are in browner pastures (viz the Arts), Language.

Any you want to add? Feel free to use the comments link right below. Hopefully, I'll get around to posting an answer to "What you need to get out of your computer science degree?" soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Globalization and Poverty

Recently a friend of mine posted a link to Vandana Shiva's "Globalization and Poverty" on his blog. This post is a response to some of the issues she's raised in the article. Ofcourse, due to the poverty of my ideas, I am forced to retain the same title as hers.

Read her article here

You can't argue with her when she says that our farmers are ruining their crops by excessive use of pesticides. Nor can you disagree when she talks about people growing water-intensive crops because they are profitable.

However, when she blames globalization, you got to sit up and take notice. See the text of what she says:

"...The drought is not a “natural disaster”. It is “man-made”. It is the result of mining of scarce ground water in arid regions to grow thirsty cash crops for export instead of water-prudent food crops for local needs. It is experiences such as these which tell me that we are so wrong to be smug about the new global economy..."

Its funny how the laws of causality never apply to Ms. Shiva's writings. Well, yes, the drought was caused by farmers growing crops like rice and sugar in water-starved regions like Telangana and Hyderabad-Karnataka. But why did they grow those crops? Was it because of the "global economy"? Why do our farmers use more fertilizer? Is it because of Monsanto? Fortunately for Ms. Shiva, no one asks these questions. Everyone is so taken by her form and fury that they forget to ask ... why? Having asked the questions here, let me try and answer them.

Our farmers use more fertilizer because historically they've done so. And they started doing so because of the "green revolution" that encouraged them in this direction. From 0.55 kgs/hectare, the green revolution brought up fertilizer consumption to nearly 20kgs/hectare in the early 70s ( FAO figures). During those days, chemical fertilizers and pesticides were thought of as the solution to the problems of low soil productivity and pestilence. In fact, comics were produced that drove home this fact! So yes, we were mistaken then - but why do we still use fertilizers and pesticides at such high levels? Well, now this has become a permanent clique of politicians and businessmen who take subsidies to manufacture chemical fertilizers and pesticides, so need a market for them, therefore dumping them at our farmer's doorstep - when was the last time you saw an ad on TV or the newspaper discouraging farmers from using chemical inputs? Pray, what do any of these have anything to do with globalization? BTW, the thirsty cash crops for export that Vandana Shiva mentions are rice and sugarcane - and no, they are not exported (at least not in quantities that lets the farmers profit). Farmers grow rice and sugarcane because of our food procurement laws, lack of infrastructure to store value-rich produce like fruits and vegetables, and guaranteed returns for these crops. So, if you want to blame someone, blame the government for not providing the infrastructure or freeing up internal markets, not "the global economy".

This is a typical tactic used by the eco-terrorists, anti-globalists and communists of all hues. Blind your opponent with flashy English (Arundhati Roy) or tragic scenes (almost everybody). Rant about how farmers are killing themselves, particularly to a largely western audience, and then blame it all on Bush, on globalization, on the WTO, on the BJP, on communalism et al.

Watch this space...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Of equality and equal opportunity.

Somewhere earlier on my blog, I had posted a link to Nehru's speech - "A tryst with destiny". As far as I have seen, this single speech sets out the Indian Dream for all of us better than any other. And amongst other things, Nehru mentions "...It (freedom) means the ending of poverty and ignorance and poverty and disease and inequality of opportunity." Note that he says "inequality of opportunity" and not "inequality".

Nehru knew, unlike the communists of today, that an equal society is unsustainable as it has high entropy and deficiency of opportunity, not to mention the fact that it is against the laws of Nature.

What laws? Simple - note that a rat and an elephant are not created equal. The rat is small, has numerous predators and has a short life span. The elephant is huge, has next to no predators and has a long life span. However, nature gives both an equal opportunity to survive. Rats have numbers. Elephants do not. The sheer numbers of rat population give the species a way to survive, and both species thrive (without taking into account wanton destruction of elephants by humans).

How does this apply to the real world? Easy as pie - Tendulkar and I cannot be equal. But both Tendulkar and I should get equal opportunity to become Tendulkar. The results may vary, but the opportunity should be the same. That is what a democracy should guarantee. In terms of governance, what should be guaranteed is that everyone gets an equal quality and quantity of education - be it a rich dalit, a poor brahmin or a 'backward' politician. And this should be a race to the top, not to the bottom.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Mumbai tragedy

Its a shame - that the country's 'financial capital' crumbles totally when there is heavy rain. While a lot of media attention has been focussed on the role of the BMC and the state government, I want to bring the spotlight on the role of the met department.

I remember seeing the forecast for Western India - "Heavy to very heavy rain expected in the next 24 hours." Now does this tell anyone that the city is going to get record rainfall? Hey, even Bangalore has been getting similar forecasts for nearly two weeks now! I don't get it - can't the met department actually say - "Record rainfall predicted"? I remember watching forecasts in Raleigh and Fort Lauderdale. They were never wrong. If the forecaster said heavy rain - he would also say heavy rain of the kind that will flood drains (though that never happened).

So, why can't we do the same? Don't we have the equipment? Or the models? Or is it simply first-rate negligence?

Comments welcome.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Why technology is like art

One unfortunate consequence of being in the software profession is that people don't usually associate software with creativity, beauty and expression. For that matter, most people don't even like technology, as it either scares them or strikes them as being 'mind-driven' rather than 'heart-driven'. This is less true in India where it is 'cool' to be a 'code-freak', than in the US, but here too software engineering is treated as a well-paying 'love-less', 'passion-less' deskjob'. What is more unfortunate is that many software engineers too treat it that way - seeing the profession as a way to make a living rather than seeing it as yet another way to vent their creative cravings.

I wonder if it is because most people fail to see the beauty resident in a good program, in a well-designed 'geek-toy' or in a software tool. So, in this post, I want to present my views on the similarities between good art/music/architecture and good technology. Needless to say, I am only talking about my experiences.

Here goes:

Great architecture and great technology have universal appeal.

There is something about great art/architecture/music that appeals to a very wide audience. I know many people who have never heard Carnatic music, but simply love the Pancharatnas rendered by Balamuralikrishna. I myself fell in love with Beethoven's symphonies after hearing them at Vienna and I had zero exposure to western classical music then. Almost the entire world loves the Taj Mahal.
The same holds for technology. The Apple IPod, the Internet, Google, name a few.

Great art and great technology are timeless

I know that many of you will take issue with me on this one what with new tech toys and software coming into the market every day. But consider, for a moment, UNIX. Consider TCP/IP, with its extensions, and you'll realize what I mean.

Great technology is simple - sometimes deceptively so
Great technology peels well and peels long - just like great art.
Great technology creates experiences - just like great art.

Great technology is always simple - sometimes deceptively so. Anyone who has coded Quick sort would be quick to point out how the algorithm which stated in its textual form is:
Step 1: Choose an element and put it in its right position in the array.
Step 2: Repeat the same for the elements to the left of the array
Step 3: Repeat the same for the elements on the right
takes many iterations to get right. And then, we could talk about its complexity. And then, we could improve its efficiency for boundary cases, and then we could make it generic, and then provide proof, and get the idea. The same holds good for almost every piece of hardware, for every game sold in the market place. Abstraction is a fundamental construct of technology. Which is true for art as well. I 'sort of' play the violin in Carnatic style, and believed for a long time that all there was to Carnatic music were the notes. You play the notes, and you have the song. Lately, I've realized that this is hardly the case. The notes are just one part of the song. There are the lyrics, there is a situation behind the song, and more importantly, the lyrics themselves have many meanings and so on. If you don't believe me, read the following line:
"mohada hendathi teerida balika maavana maneya hanginyako"
Translated, it means, "Why bother about your father-in-law's house when your wife is no more?". Apparently, this single line has many different, uncommon meanings, none of which are conveyed by the words(directly).

Great art creates experiences. Great music makes you forget the world. You lose yourself in the brilliant colours of a maestro's pictures. Technology does the same. We all know how we fought to finish our first video game, how we enjoyed the thrill of victory when we shot the villian (or ate the bad goblins), why, we even remember how we debugged our first program - don't we? Haven't we all had the days when we are so engrossed in a game that we lost track of time? Or so engrossed in getting a sorted linked list (this one is for you, Harsha) right in the 3rd semester programming class that we worked late into the night on an exam weekend!? Technology not only creates experiences, but also enhances them - take CDs and vinyl records for instance.

The principles of great art and great technology come from the same source.

More on this later...

Another 'possibilities' question

Ok, here comes another "What would you do if you could" question:

If you had all the money in the world and could choose your profession (however less paying it may be), what would your profession be?

Mine would be teaching - teaching any academic subject. What would yours be?

Monday, July 11, 2005

A tryst with destiny

Whatever be the man's shortcomings, Nehru is right up there as far as his speeches are concerned. Two of his best are: A tryst with destiny and the Light has gone out of our lives . I have had the good fortune to read some of his books - notably Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History , and both are excellent. Nehru's control over the English language, his love for India, and the natural flow of his thoughts are worth emulating.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Interesting question

If you could be taught by the best teachers in the world, which three subjects would you want to learn?

My choices would be
1) History
2) Maths
3) Theoretical Computer Science, not necessarily in that order.

What would your choices be?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stacks and Vectors

Inspired by my friend Balbir, I've decided to start posting technical questions on my blog. Here is the first one:

You want to implement a Stack using a Vector. So, how do you do it? There are three approaches (in C++):

1) class Stack : public Vector
2) class Stack : private Vector
3) class Stack
Vector vec;

Of the three, which is the best, and which is the worst, and why?
No prizes for guessing which method Java adopts...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Three stupid words any programmer can utter

No, not "I love you"...if that is what some of you were expecting.
The three words are - "I know C++"

Disclaimer - This does not apply if you are Stroustrup, Lippmann, Coplien, Vijayan, or anybody else who really knows C++.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My car driving experience

I learnt to drive a car for the first time in 2001, just before I left for the US. Unfortunately, for the three years that I stayed there, I never drove. Still, I was usually the navigator whenever my 'gang' went on trips, so that gave me a good idea of how people drive on US roads.

Now, back in Bangalore, I am taking driving classes again, and man!, the things my instructor is teaching me are simply crazy. US or not, if this is the way people learn to drive, they will definitely cause are a few gems:

- I am driving somewhere in the centre of the road and want to turn left. So, I quickly looked back and checked my 'blind-spot'. This brihaspathi tells me - "Yaak saar hindhe noodthaa iddira? Mundhe noodi!" [Why are you looking backwards!? Look ahead!]

- I am driving on the left lane on Bellary Road when a truck is parked right in front of me. I am in fourth gear and driving at around 45-50 (tell me if that itself is right), so I slow down, switch to third gear, turn on the right indicator to say that I am switching to the right lane. What does this guy say? "Yaak saar indicator haaktheera, right thirig baeka? Sumne kai thoorsi." [Why do you turn on the indicator? Do you want to take a right turn!? Simply show your hand!]

- I take a turn into a road that has a hospital on it. My road is blocked by an auto, with the driver sitting in it. So, I politely honk once. He (the auto driver) looks back and acknowledges, but is unable to start his vehicle. So, our pal takes over the steering and starts honking like he is in a noise-competition! To h*ll with the hospital and the patients!

I'll post more as I find time.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Representative of Indian Women

I am no fan of Aishwarya Rai's - I think she is too plastic, more like a Barbie doll than a human being. Her acting sucks, her dancing is like watching a robot, and the emotions she portays on screen are simply pathetic. So, in short, I simply can't stand her being the 'representative of Indian women' as I have a lot more respect for Indian women than that.

But why this topic? Because in her desperation to get slotted into Hollywood, the lady in question has been very visible on many English channels lately. And each time, she comes off worse than before. First, she was at Cannes, wearing a black dress which simply paled in comparison with Nandita Das' red saree. Then she assumed a 'call center' accent in her interview that was telecast on NDTV profit. And finally, on Oprah, there was a complete makeover and she finally showed her true h(c)olours.

No doubt she has the right to do what she wants. She has the right to be desperate for a Bond movie role. She has the right to wear a black dress and strut like a peacock (wow! India's national bird) in front of the western media. She also has the right to feel happy about being rated the 9th most 'beautiful' women ever.

What she and her lackeys don't have the right for, is to portray her as a symbol of new India. For all her 'greatness', she isn't. The symbol of new India is not a peacock strutting its feathers. It isn't a lady who is ashamed of her Indian accent and upbringing. It certainly isn't an actress who cannot act.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Bangalore - I

A few days back, I, along with two very close friends of mine made my way home in an autorickshaw from work. It was raining, and naturally, we had the time of our lives trying to get an auto, get in it, and get back home. While the journey itself was uneventful, we got into an argument (we always do, only the topic differs) about Bangalore's condition. While I was arguing that the problems of Bangalore are due to imbecilic politicians and bureaucrats, and generally lower expectations of the people, my friends argued that there were resource constraints, and more importantly, too many people.

So, who is right? I don't deny that Bangalore is no Boston which can throw 80billion US$ at the Big Dig. But how much money does it take:
  • to have motorable roads that are straight, with clearly marked lanes, reflectors and slopes for drainage?
  • to have storm water drains that are clean, closed and that can take the load of the monsoon rains?
  • to have footpaths that don't require mountain-climbing skills to walk on?
  • to have sewage connections for every home, so that they don't let out sewage water into the storm water drains?
  • to have proper lighting for the entire city?
  • to have adequate green cover for all our roads?

Now, all of these are easily affordable by our very own BMP. But why is it that none of these happen? You all know the answer - corruption. How can the officials give out contracts if the roads remain in good condition? How can you spend 60cr on removing silt from storm water drains if you have closed drains?

So, what is the answer? I don't know.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Thanks to Tim-Berners Lee

Gawrsh! This Internet is awesome! Today I went around in a depth-first search of blogs and ended up visiting so many interesting people's sites!

Thanks, Tim-Berners Lee (!

Higher v/s Primary education

Economists of most hues have for long, proposed that governments have no business funding higher education, and so must focus on primary education while leaving the pursuers of higher education to bear its costs. Among them are highly rated leftist economists like Amartya Sen. The current UPA government, advised by the left-dominated National Advisory Council seems to agree with this school of thought.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing could be more dangerous to the economic future of this country.

India is today acknowledged as an emerging economic power, led by her strengths in 'high-technology' areas. How did we, a 'poor' country, manage to get such strengths? Simple - it was because of the innate Indian respect for higher education, and the opportunity provided by successive governments by keeping costs low. If we have the world's second (or third) largest pool of talented man-power, it is mainly because of our 'cheap' higher education. Imagine, would Kalam have completed his bachelor's if he had to pay the equivalent of 25,000 US$ for a year? Would Amartya Sen have gone to Presidency college if he had to pay 20 lakhs for a degree?

Not to forget the point about equal opportunity. While our leftist ideologues cry themselves hoarse over equal opportunity, how can they forget about equal opportunity in higher education? Why should higher education be the preserve of the rich (which will be the result if the government withdraws from higher education)? What our leftist pals seem to say is: "It is OK for me, (put the name of your favourite idealogue here) to get affordable higher education, but it is not OK for others". Animal Farm, anyone?

Primary education is extremely important, yes. But so is higher education. It is higher education that will give students the skills to survive in tomorrow's world - where jobs will be based on creativity and high technology, not on mass-manufacturing. It is research funding that leads to technological innovations and breakthroughs, not mass-manufacturing. But, when were the leftists interested in technology anyway?

Finally, the background to the leftist argument. The scarcity mentality. "Oh! we are a poor country, and we have too many people. So, we can't afford higher education, we can't afford nuclear power, ad infiniteum". I am no economist, but I am sure that a fraction of the money the government spends on itself or a fraction of the black money in India will suffice to finance higher education for our masses.


Everybody loves activists - don't you? These noble creatures give up home and work to FIGHT for causes that everyone is concerned about - the environment, human rights, animal rights, and if you are in India, secularism.

But how sincere are they? How much do they know?

I distinctly recall a discussion with an activist friend of mine who ranted against big dams, fertilizers, commercial farming, the BMIC project, Monsanto and genetic engineering without having heard of PL480. After all, how can you talk about farming in India without recalling the humiliation that PL480 inflicted on us?

There are many of his/her ilk, who driven by guilt get into these activist causes. The organizations that support these causes have active members in the US and UK, the Indians there being particularly susceptible to the activist guilt trip. Hard cash received in dollars is used to fund air trips of fellow activists to forums like the WSF.

If you are planning to donate to any such organization, desist.


Those familiar with C++ know that typecasting is a (sometimes necessary) evil. Does the same apply to real life as well? Don't get what I am saying? Well, read on...

The typecasting I am referring to is a sort of categorization of people based on nothing more than their looks, clothes, or the way they speak. It probably arises from the (sometimes foolish) attempts of the human brain to make sense of everything it sees. One of way of doing that is by categorizing information (the divide and conquer strategy), which naturally gets applied to people as well. Another reason could be the "Namma alatheyannu meeralarada devaru" syndrome, by which we measure people by our own subjective scales (hey, if my ruler can't measure it, it can't be long enough, right?).

Well, in my case, people make so many assumptions about the things I could/couldn't do, that I could almost write an entire book on the topic. This happens even with my closest friends and associates, and on occasion, with my family too!

For instance, there are many 'close friends' of mine who are convinced that I cannot swing a (cricket, TT, badminton) bat to save my life, that I cannot sing, who are surprised that I know some basic economic theory, and who just cannot believe that I can drive a vehicle at speeds greater than 30 kmph. Even when people find out that I have a particular talent, there are attempts at sub-categorization - oh, you prefer to sing particular types of songs, so you must be a guy who does not drive! Worse are the assumptions people make because of my lack of dress sense. I won't mention those here.

Here are some more categorizations: "Oh! you are a beautiful girl, so you must know how to sing". "Oh! you are clothed in jeans and t-shirts, so you must have modern views on everything" or, more insidiously, "Oh! you are so good looking that you have to be smart (In India) or dumb (in the USA) ".

I make no bones about the fact that I am guilty of it, and much as I try, there are occasions when linguistic flourish, a personable appearance, or an unfathomable accent has led me to making the wrong judgement about a person.

Are there any advantages of typecasting? From where I stand, there seem to be none. What do you think?

Feel free to post your opinions and experiences.

How to become a hacker

An informative guide to lead you to hackerdom

In particular, read the "Points of Style".

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Everyone (in India) has heard of NRIs - Non-Resident Indians, Not Required Indians, and so on. In this post, I want to talk to RNIs - Resident Non Indians. This is a category of people I've met only recently (during the past 3-4 years).

The breadth of knowledge of an RNI is amazing. S(he) is usually an expert in everything 'global' - global warming, the effects of Monsanto on agriculture, the Iraq war, NBA, European League Football, Kosovo crisis...the vishwamanava of Kuvempu's poetry. But when it comes to India, be it the Emergency, be it Cricket, be it Indian music - s(he) knows nothing. Now, I am not against knowledge of any kind, but shouldn't one know basics about his/her own country while knowing so much about a foriegn land?

This is an attitude fostered by our news channels too. The Schiavo case made headlines on NDTV, the newsbar keeps talking about trivialities of US society like which actor married whom, or who is giving a concert somewhere. Nowhere in these news items will you find mentions of people like Somender Singh (from Mysore) [See story in this blog on engine efficiency], or Rajaram Bojji (the 'inventor' of Skybus), or any of the people that truly make India great.

What a shame!

Friday, May 27, 2005

A great link

See this link for some of the greatest film speeches:

Search for "Gandhi" to see some videos from the movie.

A good post on driving in Bangalore

Nice one - read in particular, the part about BMTC Golf!

Thanks Vinay!

Me and Mozilla

Being in the IT industry, I obviously have many 'geek' friends, most of whom use Mozilla. Naturally, every one of them has been hounding me to use Mozilla, asking me to use a 'real browser', to stop supporting rich fat capitalist companies, and to desist from encouraging the big scourge - Microsoft. [Note the absence of quotes everywhere except 'real browser']

I've tried using Mozilla twice - once on my Windows XP system and another time on Windows 2000. While the bells and whistles are great, I haven't found that Mozilla is any more stable than IE. Furthermore, and this really irritates me, our intranet home page does not open with Mozilla, nor do many sites that use ASP. So, my question is - if a browser does not open your favourite website, what do you do? Change the browser, or stop visiting the website?

Now you know why dreams of Linux conquering the desktop world will remain just that - a dream.

A better IC engine

Now all of us in our Engineering undergraduate courses, learnt that the efficiency of an IC engine does not exceed 28%.
Here is a good story about how an engineer from Mysore has improved it:

Also, if you are interested in other good news on India (albeit a little optimistic), visit:

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Attitude and Aptitude

Heard from a manager:
"It is not your aptitude but your attitude that determines your altitude"

How true.

Amongst the people with a fantastic attitude I've known, are a large number of 94 UVCE folks. This post is simply to say - "great knowing you guys"!

Moneys for Bangalore devp.

Incidentally, ToI reports today that Dharam has sanctioned 135 crores for roadworks and the like in Bangalore. Recently, our Siddu (sic) had sanctioned 300 crores. Now, they are sanctioning 60 crores for desilting storm water drains, and god knows how many crores for the tree massacre that is going on.

In fact, the tree massacre is a great opportunity to make money. So many juicy contracts to hand out - contracts for cutting the tree, for transporting the debris, for replanting new trees...

If you wonder how these guys siphon off money, take a look at Ambedkar Road...recently, near the Indian Express bldg, they repainted the lane markings and zebra, obviously, no one gives contracts to paint half the road and leave the other half - but lo and behold, that is precisely what has happened here! Wish I had a camera to take snaps and post them here - but I don't :(

Dr. Clean

Ok, I am sitting here at work, it is 12:20 in the night, waiting for my cab to arrive. So, what shall I do? Add a new post! So here goes...

One thing that burns me up is the Dr. Clean title given to the "aashaadabhooti" prime minister of ours. Now, the one person who deserves the title is the President - who has unfailingly kept up constitutional propriety in everything he has done. What about this guy? He has got this image by doing exactly the opposite! Jharkhand, Bihar, Buta Singh, Shibu Soren, Laloo...not just that, he addresses a conference of DMs where he says that DMs should have fixed tenures, and the evening, dismisses two honest DMs who had the guts to tackle Laloo's goons!

All this is the creation of the English media. Oh! the innocent Manmohan, the diffident Manmohan, the "father of reforms" Manmohan - what junk!

God save this country.

Anyway, read this article for some more temperature increases:

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Heartening changes in highways

One of the things I got to do recently was to go on a drive beyond Bangalore. One change that gladdened my heart was the new highway from Hebbal onwards. While most of it is under construction, the stretches that are complete are fabulous (if only by Indian standards). While I cannot say much about grade separators, medians, greenery, safety, lanes, and the like, the ride was damn smooth.

See this site (particularly the Indian Highways -II forum) for some snaps...

I'll post more links as and when I can.

The Nehruvian Penalty

People born in my generation (70s) have only read about Nehru in their (our) textbooks. Few of us know that he was single-handedly responsible for the Kashmir mess, our slow rate of growth, and for not getting a UN Security Council permanent seat.

Rajeev Srinivasan, my favorite columnist, has documented this in good measure in his fact, the title of this post is a term coined by him.

Now while we are doing somersaults to get a UNSC seat, many people are not aware that the "Pandit" actually refused a permanent seat when the US, Russia and other countries offered it to India. Here is what he actually said:

"From the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Series II, Volume 29, Minutes of meeting with Soviet Leaders, Moscow, 22 June 1955, page 231, here are the minutes of the conversation between Jawaharlal Nehru and Soviet Premier Marshal Bulganin, as quoted in Claude Arpi's Born in Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement (Mittal Publications, Delhi, 2004, ISBN 81-7099-974-X):
'Bulganin: While we are discussing the general international situation and reducing tension, we propose suggesting at a later stage India's inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council.

Nehru: Perhaps Bulganin knows that some people in the USA have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between us and China. We are, of course, wholly opposed to it. Further, we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward to occupy certain positions because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject of controversy. If India is to be admitted to the Security Council it raises the question of the revision of the Charter of the UN. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China's admission and possibly of others is first solved. I feel that we should first concentrate on getting China admitted.'"

Thanks Rajeev Srinivasan and Rediff for this one. Pandit...yeah, right!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bureaucratic reform

This is the draft of a letter I wrote to a Bangalore newspaper on the topic...

One of the major promises made by the UPA government has been the reform of the bureaucracy. I would like to suggest through your paper, a couple of measures for the same.
First, change the selection process. It is patently obvious that the system needs the best managers. However, the screening process selects, at best, the most academically qualified people and, at worst, India's best information store-keepers. I fail to understand what good a 300-point-worth essay is in executing an infrastructure project? How will a 300-point-worth general studies paper help in improving primary education? It is not my point that language skills are unimportant, or that general knowledge is immaterial, but testing essay-writing skills selects people who can frame arcane laws in Victorian English, not people who can connect with the populace and deliver services. Interested readers may want to look up the Indian Flag Code available at ( to get a first-hand feel for the kind of candidates that the system selects.
What is needed is a screening process that selects people with the right attitude - people with integrity who can work as a team, lead in dire situations, and take responsibility for their actions. In short, the best managers, not the best academics.
My next suggestion is about taking responsibility for one's actions. Unfortunately, in today's system of 'collective responsibility', no single person gets the credit, nor does anyone take the blame. The 'system' therefore continues to plod along, not only wasting money, but more importantly wasting opportunity. This should change - every official in the government should have targets every year. Action should be taken against officials who don't meet targets, and the entire process should be made public. Only then, will we see accountability and action - not very different from in the private sector.
One hopes the UPA government recognizes these issues and takes action to remedy the drawbacks in the system. Three cheers for bureaucratic reform!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Another great book

The Fountain head - this is probably the greatest book I've ever read (comes real close to Animal Farm and 1984). Ayn Rand has written a master piece. In fact, this book even contributed a few phrases to the English language - notably, "The Roark effect" and "Objectivism".

Anyways, don't miss this book - for what ever reason. The main characters are Howard Roark - a brilliant architect who is up against the system, best represented by his friend Peter Keating and newspaper columnist Ellsworth Toohey. I could not put the book down once I started reading it (and it took me most of two days to finish it.)

There are two classic monologues in the book - the first when Ellsworth Toohey explains his philosophy to Peter Keating and the second, when Howard Roark defends himself. These are must reads for any sociology student.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

How do you know that the Congress is back in power?

Well, the answer is simple -
A) The contractors are happy
B) The naxals are happy
C) The Income-tax/excise/customs officers are happy
D) The terrorists are happy
E) The "Family" is happy
F) The JNU-types are happy

... and so on and so forth.
So, who is unhappy? The poor thing called the "common man". Indeed, "Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ko laath"

BTW, a question (more like a no-brainer): If 'con' is the opposite of 'pro', what is the opposite of Progress?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Best place to work.

I noticed today that the posts on my blog were getting a lil' too negative, so I decided to throw in something I like as well.
For all you nerds out there - can you find a better place to work than this?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A great book

I bought and read Arun Shourie's "Governance and the scelerosis that has set within" recently. It is a great book!

Here is the official excerpt:

"Can officers use red or green ink on files? A simple question, you may think. But in government it is enough to set off meetings, letters, references to other ministries that stretch over a year. . . A tree false on to the house of the Indian High Commissioner; memos fly to and fro, and for nine years government cogitates and deliberates, and weighs pros and cons, unable to decide who is to repair the house, and how. . . From such trifles to matters that spell the difference between life and death, the same pattern. . . Environment degenerates. Laws are passed. Rules are formulated under those laws. Boards are set up to enforce the laws, the rules. The degradation accelerates. . . Intelligence agencies, governors experts on national security issue warning upon warning about the peril that the demographic inundation from Bangladesh spells for our country. Political parties keep quarreling about the matter. Ministers keep issuing statements, and disowning them. Governments keep ordering intelligence agencies to prepare position papers, and then up-dates of position papers, legislatures keep drowning the warnings. Courts keep adjourning hearing. The inundation continues. . . .
Governments shut their eyes to a problem. The problem swells. Governments look the other way. The problem explodes. Governments set up an institution to tackle it. Five years later, exactly what had been forecast comes to pass - the problem is still there, and the institution has become another problem. . . . As the institution has not worked, a law is passed. As the law is not enforced, amendments are decreed that make penalties under the law more frightening. Legislation as a substitute for enforcement. Vision statements, plan documents, strategy papers as a substitute for execution." (jacket)

I recommend this book to everyone who wonders why after 50 years of independence, we don't have adequate literacy or access to clean drinking water.

His website:

Clearances for Bangalore Airport

While people are celebrating that the 'final clearance' has been given for the proposed International Airport at Bangalore, I strongly recommend that anyone who believes that the project will happen read this:

It is a great link outlining the history of the project since 1997-98. The reader is reminded that the project was conceived even before that - in 1989.


Ah - I finally got time to do some basic changes to my blog. The interface is new, and I've started adding links to some other blogs I like.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

What democracy?

It has been a long time since I updated this blog - so here goes:

Isn't it funny that while we were mourning the death of democracy next door in Nepal, we are being mute spectators to the death of democracy in our own country!? I mean, how can anyone justify the invite to Shibu Soren? Is there no decency left in the politics of this country!? This is actually typical Congress culture - to dismiss elected governments, to manipulate verdicts, to promote horse-trading, all under the garb of secularism. Why do you support Lalu? Secularism. Why did you betray the people's verdict? Secularism. And why did you massacre thousands of Sikhs in 1984? Secularism!!!

Actually, the problem here is deeper within. The Congress thinks that it and only it can govern the country. Add to it the Italian queen-bee, some fawning idiots and a fractured verdict (of 2004) and you have a devastating combination. The recent actions of the Goa and Jharkand Governors is just the beginning. (Well, actually, the move to dismiss NDA-appointed Governors was the beginning!) Wait and watch to see how these guys murder democracy.

Anyways, God save this country.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Rethinking Kashmir

Rethinking Kashmir

I read with great interest Prof Mukthar Ali Naqvi's rebuttal (May 17) to Prof Hoodbhoy's article in Dawn.

Unfortunately, Prof Naqvi seems to have got his facts all wrong. India's exports crossed $50 billion recently, while its imports crossed $56 billion. While this trade deficit is close to Prof Naqvi's figure of $8billion, he conveniently glosses over the fact that India has a current account surplus - by which the forex inflow was more than the services imports, which also explains its burgeoning forex reserves.

The curious reader would have observed that in the duration between Dr Hoodbhoy's article and this letter, India's forex reserves have gone up by $6 billion, all without any form of foreign aid.

Prof Naqvi is again wrong when he says that companies like INFY are suffering losses. What has happened is that the margins have reduced from over 50 per cent to somewhere around 10-12 per cent, a more realistic figure, considering the slowdown in the industry. At the same time, Prof Naqvi ignores the huge outcry over outsourcing to India, in the US and the UK, caused by companies like Intel, Accenture and IBM shifting their software development to India. Incidentally, when was the last time a computer major shifted its operations to Pakistan?

My intention is not to say that India is heaven. Surely, India has too many problems that need to be resolved - poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, population, communalism, just to name a few. The same problems plague Pakistan as well. So, the need of the hour is not one-upmanship - as Prof Naqvi has unfortunately tried to do, but statesmanship, as displayed by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan.