Sunday, November 06, 2005

The North Indian flight

I have been visiting Matheran, a quite hill station near Mumbai, every year almost as a ritual. Many of our friends in fact say that we go there to fuel its economy by paying 3000/- for a night and a couple of drinks, which would cost you not more than a few hundred back home.

I have seen Matheran change a lot, it’s an hours drive from where I stay in the suburbs and was one of our favorite holiday destinations years back – both cheap at the same time classy. Change in the early and mid 90’s came when few Gujarati traders & businessmen started buying property on the hills and new (so called luxury!) hotels cropped up to get their share of the pie. This was expected and was not something the people of Matheran and Neral (the village on the foothills) would have despised. A very big and easily noticeable change that has people in Matheran/Neral worried is the gradual rise of the North Indian population. They have taken up jobs in the shops, hotels, as cab drivers etc that were earlier filled up by the local population. This was my first visit to Matheran after I came back from the US. The feeble protests from some of the locals I spoke to sounded like folks on the Lou Dobbs show protesting against outsourcing to India and other countries.It took my thoughts to the truth that Thomas Friedman recorded so well in his recent book about the world being flat. The outsourcing story, the demand and supply equations have all been playing up to the gallery in every single village, town and city for a much longer time that we all have noticed. It just becomes alarming when the local population begins to suffer out of not being competitive enough to still garner jobs and wages at their older and higher rates.

PS: - I am seen here with Vicky a smart young man who came to Matheran from UP 6 years back and now runs this shop for the owner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ganguly vs Chappel - Another ego problem!

Was not at all surprised on what's going on in Zimbabwe, the Indian cricket captain has an ego bigger than any one else's and unfortunately he is putting it in full view at an absolutely wrong time.

The whole episode stands out as childish & immature that no sensible person would like to relate to. It was stupid for the captain to go to the media and cry in front of the world that he was asked to step down by the coach due to his bad form. In fact, instead of garnering any sympathy, the captain actually showed the world his childish behavior. I think Chappel has shown excellent statesmanship and maturity in the whole episode and has come out a winner.

The advice that chappel has given Ganguly must be implemented, if not by Ganguly himself then by the selectors. It's time for Ganguly to go - whether he likes it or not.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Indian left left back

Some time back, i read an article that put the blame for slow economic progress in India on the people who elected about 40 leftist members of parliament from 2-3 different states.

The prime minister is frustrated that he has to work with a bunch of idiots from the left front that seem to still live in the era of the soviet union. These leaders neither have a vision nor a strategy to take India to the next orbit of economic growth. Their job, it seems is to oppose every attempt at reform in the name of the welfare of the poor. Left front is mentally and intellectually still living in the past and is unwilling to understand the dynamics of the 21st century. They even refuse to learn from the mistakes they themselves have done in the states they ruled for years. The state of affairs in Kolkata and West Bengal are for all to see.

It's infact very refreshing to see the chief Minister of Bengal talk about reform and i am all praise for the recent quote "Reform or Perish" by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. If the left front leaders take a cue from their colleague in Bengal and help the country get on the high orbit of economic growth, they would have done India a world of good.

Katrina's effect on New Orleans

It was shocking to see images of New Orleans after the city was torn apart by Katrina, the hurricane. Just about a month back, all of us in India were busy blaming the government, the local administration, the politicians, builders et al. for the event that brought the financial capital of the country, Mumbai to a stand still. Most of us were probably right in the criticism and i personally felt it wasn't misplaced at all. I have spent a considerable part of my youth in and around Mumbai and know the place and the people well. It takes a lot to bring this place (Mumbai) to a stand still and only a natural disaster as big as the one we saw could achieve that.

The story of Mumbai and New Orleans suddenly did not look too different to me, the only difference was that Mumbai (and the whole of India) is ruled by corrupt (& criminal) politicians & run by corrupt bureaucrats. The fate of the people in the two cities was almost the same, no relief could reach them, people were stranded for days, large scale contamination of water could spread diseases causing epidemic.

At the end of the day i thought the administration in New Orleans, USA should have fared better, done more and also much quicker to help us Indians put pressure on the corrupt bureaucrats and politicians in Mumbai.

May be our grand mothers would be right on this one, when god wishes to intervene, a Bush or a Deshmukh really do not matter....

Friday, August 19, 2005

Miscommunication - The murderer in Mumbai

The whole city rotting under 8-10 feet deep flood water for almost 2-3 days wasn’t enough to open the eyes and ears of the authorities. In spite of clear indications to the root causes of these problems, I am almost certain that little would change in what is called the Town planning office and the associated agencies. Land mafia would continue to get plots and mangrove lands de-reserved for residential and commercial purposes – primarily to make money.

Another thing that comes to the defense of the authorities is the fact that rainfall caused floods in non metro and rural areas as well, where the reasons mentioned above hardly hold good. Places in Konkan were affected by the rains and reported heavy losses – life as well as property.

One of the things that stand out is the utter lack of communication from the authorities to people about the whole situation. Rumor mongers had a field day and that killed a lot of people in stampedes, when rumors of Tsunami were spread in the slums adjoining the Powai lake. On e of the things the authorities could put in place is a simple Disaster recovery and Business Continuity Plan for the city. A city like Mumbai needs it desperately to be able to keep moving in a business as usual manner and bring back peoples confidence in the system. Mumbai perhaps is the only place in India where people have tremendous faith in the public transport systems and use it to the core. If we falter in Mumbai, other places could never catch up on the path to progress.

Frustrated nation of a frustrated people..

Non functional systems, lack of infrastructure, slow pace of legal justice, unemployment, corruption etc. are things that dot the Indian landscape. There are spots of brilliance like the IT revolution, mobile communications, but these are far and few in between and their combined impact covers not more than a million people at the most.

The more I think of India as a nation, the more I feel cheated, Cheated by its politicians, cheated by the bureaucrats, cheated by the policies, last but not the least cheated by the people themselves. Each one of us tries to blame the other for things that are not per standards in and around our environment, but there is little movement from our own self to come out of our drawing rooms and do something about it.

Today stress levels are rising, there is a blame game going on between state governments, state and central governments, Industry and governments, politicians and bureaucrats and so on. People of the country are getting frustrated by the day and I have a feeling that change could come in thru’ an outburst of this frustration. If a Mohan Bhargav (Swades) could change the minds and beliefs of people in a small village, Is it really possible that not a single such Mohan Bhargav exists in each village across the country. The frustration is on the rise and people might just roll it up into a mass movement when the government ought to take notice and work beyond electoral benefits. I know this is wishful thinking and in a country like India it take a Mahatma Gandhi to galvanize people for a common cause. I wish there was a Mahatma every 30 years for this country to move ahead. I wish…

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A nation obsessed with itself!

I have spent a few months in the US of A and have had a few discussions with people who have lived there all their life. A common theme that came out very strongly in all of those discussions was the prevalent self obsession that the people and the nation has for itself.

It’s been about 6 months since I left the US of A and returned to India after a brief stint there. When I was listening to the joint press conference by the President of US of A and the Indian Prime Minister, the whole scene of self obsession was enacted in all its glory by some of the senior, famous journalists from reputed news channels and publications. Questions asked were about the Supreme Court nominee, the Senate issues etc. All this, in spite of America is paying dearly for its self obsession, its inability to comprehend and understand other viewpoints in a highly multi-polar world.
If 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq cannot bring this sense with in the psyche of a nation, I fail to understand what else could?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ride of my life!

I was leaving for Mumbai for a couple of days break after 6 months and the cab had arrived almost 30 minutes late. I blasted the driver and told him to rush me less I miss the flight. My words were the encouragement this 22 year old chap (Shabbir!) was looking for and he began to display his driving skills to my utter disbelief.

As soon as we had crossed the Silk Board junction, a Maruti Omni transformed itself into a MIG 29 and Shabbir assumed the role of a pilot seamlessly. At most times while overtaking trucks, busses and unassuming car drivers our vehicle would be in semi flight. I was soon counting the number of vehicles that we could have hit in this frenzy and letting out a sight every time we missed one. At one point we were close to having a head on collision with a Scorpio, we words exchanged, both drivers abused each other in Kannada and we were ready to proceed to the next target. It all finally ended after about half an hour, when the vehicle came to a halt at the departure section of the airport. When I paid Shabbir and asked him to be careful, pat came the reply “Saab, aapko jaldi thi, main toh duty kiya, time pey pahunchaya, Government ko road bada banana chahiye!”

“Haan government ko road banana chahiye, lekin sab log aisey chalayega toh thoda time ke baad aadmi nahi bachengey idhar” I said, to which Shabbir replied with a “Saab waisey bhi kya rakha hain zindagi main”. I just picked up my bags and went ahead to check-in. Once I was in Mumbai, I picked up a cab to get to the nearest Railway station, Ghatkopar. Coincidently the driver was another young man, Sulaiman. Sulaiman was a complete contrast to Shabbir, though I asked him to get me to the station before midnight, so I could get a train to a suburban town I was planning to spend the night in. When I narrated the earlier incident in B’lore to Sulaiman, he had a very different take on it. Here’s what he said “Saab, yeah B’lore waaley abhi naye naye active ho rayeley hain, time lageyga hum logon ke jaisey professional bananey ke liye. Passenger safety payeley aata hain!.”

Well, professional cab driver in Mumbai commenting on the unprofessional behavior of his counterpart in B’lore.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A new coach for the men in blue!

Another coach for the men in blue would soon take over from John Wright. I for one believe that Wright did a few things right and a few things wrong. He indeed brought in a flavour of team spirit amongst the individual members. The team also began looking beyond the genius of one man trying to take the burden of a billion people - Sachin Tendulkar.

The things that Wright could not make a difference on were the team’s ability to loose a contest from a winning position - Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This has been the bane of the team and there are n number of instances where the team has given up advantageous positions only to be defeated and humiliated later - Case in point the test series against the Pakistanis.

The new coach will have to make changes to the attitude of the players, make them stronger - physically, mentally both and ensure the shrug off the label of chokers.

So be it Dino the professor or Tom Moody or Greg Chappell or Dave Whatmore, it’s a tough job and hopefully we will see a successful tenure for the coach and the captain.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Mumbai - Is it still the safest?

Few years back, i would fight with friends in arguments over Mumbai being the safest place in the country especially for women. Couple of incidents in the last 2 years have turned all arguments upside down. A woman in rags raped in front of passengers in a local train late at night last year was the last nail in the coffin. As if that was not enough we have another incident involving a cop.

During a discussion with a close friend, we discussed this and what my friend told me speaks volumes for the change that Mumbai and perhaps a lot of other places are seeing. He told me this & i quote " Naresh, you have always been wrong when it came to places, remember after spending 3 years in Gujarat, you used to tell us how much you loved the place and the people, look what happened there and now Mumbai, after all your arguments about it being the safest place in India".

I have decided to make no more arguments about places and people from now on!

Friday, April 22, 2005

one more accident on Hosur Road, one more dead

It is indeed a sad day, i started for office late, and what i saw on the way was a shocking accident. A bus in trying to speed thru the traffic had crushed a man on a motor bike to death.

Enough has been said and written about the suitability of this road to handle the increasing traffic situations. I guess people dying almost every other day on this road is not a good enough reason for the decision makers to take the necessary steps and hasten the process of widening the road, building proper cross bridges for people, completing the work at hand on time.

A lethargic government like the one here in B'lore is bound to face defeat at the hands of the electorate, but what amazes me is the lack of any sense of responsibility amongst the officials and politicians.

It's probably foolish of us to expect anything better from these folks and the day is not far when they would expect us to build our own roads, drainage systems and make our own electricity - Total independence!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The old & cautious me

It’s been almost 5 years but the incident remains fresh in my mind to date.
It was a nice cold evening in B’lore and a couple of us friends got together that evening had a nice chat and came back to talk a little more near a local temple in BTM 2nd stage. A drunkard appeared to have lost sense after a grandiose dose of whatever seemed like his favourite drink. We engrossed ourselves in our discussions and suddenly the drunkard got a feeling that we were teasing/abusing him. He started abusing us in return and one of our friends gave it back to him and whisked him away. The drunkard swore he would be back and teach us a lesson, we really did not bother.

After a few minutes, the drunkard came back with another person – a 16-17 year old boy. The boy started hitting our friend who had argued with the drunkard after he was pointed at by the drunkard. We tried to stop him, but could not till one of the stronger guys in our group caught hold of the boy. The drunkard meanwhile took off his belt and started hitting me, I took 2-3 light blows on my hands. During the whole incident, I was unusually calm and quite, I was actually thinking rationally and was in my senses, did not loose temper.

I was never like that, I was very aggressive and that incident just brought to light the big change that had come in my life. I have been involved in many a brawls during my school and college days. I might have broken a few bones as well, but this was so different. Even today I am unable to attribute this change to one single thing. Was it age and maturity, was it education, was it the company I had been keeping over the last few years, was it just another change in my personality? Perhaps none of these, perhaps all of these!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Sachin Tendulkar - 10,000 & not out

Oye, 'Chin out ho gaya oye!!! shouted a brash, young Sardar. In frenzy 2 bengali's, 1 maharashtrian, 2 gujratis, 3 south indians rushed to check the tv screen in front of the hotel counter. I truly do not remember any other instance where a player can create this kind of frenzy. A lot has been written about Sachin Tendulkar's batting, his presence of mind on the cricket field and over all cricketing acumen, but this is one thing that probably cannot be written enough about and that is the unifying quality of his game that brings together people of different strata's in life.

If cricket is truly a religion in india, then Sachin Tecdulkar is probably its GOD!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Cheats every where!!!!!

Am being too harsh I guess, but when we look around, every one around here is trying to fleece you for something or the other.The feeling of you being used, abused and sometimes taken for a ride comes very strongly. Whether you are fleeced by an auto rickshaw driver, a vegetable vendor, a real estate broker, a cable operator, a mobile phone agent, the list is endless. The common theme is every one is trying to make more money by working less. Each one wants to take advantage of your lack of choice in most cases, ignorance, lack of knowledge and some times a plain simple weakness and desperation.

I guess I too am part of that crowd, at times I am a victim, at times I am the one who is on the wrong side of things, like now. I am supposed to work, but I am busy writing these 6 lines for my blog. I guess every one is in the same boat, depends on which waters you prefer sailing

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

All work and no play.....

Most of my friends and me work in excess of 12-14 hours per day. Though the work is not physically draining, it definitely is tiring. The amount of tiredness some of us experience is pretty high. Some of my friends cannot even come out of their homes once they get in after a day's work. I am no different, once I reach home after 9.00pm or so, its just a matter of priority that drives my venturing out and meeting people.

When I look back, I worked much harder, sometimes even longer hours in manufacturing, but the tiredness that the busy experiences today is of a different nature. It is not something that I used to feel when I would log in 12-14-16 hours on the shop floor and get home. Is it that we sit and laze around a lot now and the body is not subjected to any kind of physical activity through out the day? Is it the pollution, the food we eat? Is it the lack of exercise and a disciplined work ethic, posture etc.?

I don't know, may be a combination of all of these, but I know for sure, there needs to be a concerted effort to correct this. Else an entire generation of prematurely old and frail people is just about to get into a crisis that probably could have been averted.

Me thinks its possible to prevent a lot of these problems if we eat right, sleep right, sit right and work right (# of hours that is).

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sania Mirza - The next big thing in Indian sports or what?

For all of us who are heaping praise after praise on an 18 year old who hasn't achieved 10% of what the likes of Krishnan's, Amritraj's, Paes, Bhupathi have done in the past is plain stupid.
Like always we get carried away with small flashes of brilliance and we don't even want to wait for the results to show up.

At best Sania Mirza deserves a column or two on the sports pages describing her journey from the first to the third round in the Australian open, but here we have pages dedicated to some one who has not won a single tournament of repute. I am fine with all this praise after Sania has won a grandslam or has even entered the last 4 (semi finals of a major tournament).

Till then i guess i will just try and keep away from the news papers and television channels that are going overboard to praise Sania Mirza!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Infrastructure - our biggest hurdle today

The roads are narrow, there is hardly any space to maneuver more than a mid sized car with out causing a tiny traffic jam. In spite of obvious reasons to stop further development (industrial, residential both) in already cramped areas of the town, there is in fact a string of large complexes coming up in the same areas.

The administration should learn from the mistakes of cities like Mumbai, where excessive aggregation in certain areas (and of course regulations like the ULCA, Rent act) have rendered the place inhabitable. Places like Bangalore will be able to do a lot of these adjustment and remove the strain on the already stressed infrastructure. These are of course actions that can help prevent things in the future. The real problem at hand today is what can be done now to ease the already worsening situation. The answer is of course build better, wider roads and the mantra is to build it fast. There are flyover bridges being built for the last 2-3 years, nowhere in the world does one see such inefficiency and lethargy at work.

If B'lore wants to retain its place on the world map as the silicon valley of the east, it better compete with the likes of S'pore and Shanghai, rather than rot itself in its fading past glory.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

PHL - Ek naya junoon

Have never seen it for live, the impact a great marketing exercise can have on the people.
PHL-Premier Hockey League is catchy, new rules are creating tension through out the game and it keeps the audiences riveted.

Kudos to the people behind this move. Now the only thing left is to see how and when the administrators restructure their mind sets and attitudes.

Last seen, 4 kids about 5-6 years old playing hockey in J P Nagar in B'lore :)) PHL ka naya Junoon, i am sure.