Sunday, November 30, 2008

We want answers

It's over. 62 hours later the ordeal is over and we are literally picking up the pieces. After being struck again and again, and bouncing back like a 'jack-in-the-box' we refuse to be treated like morons. We want answers.
  • How did the terrorists get inside these hotels? They came to India by sea. But the sea is away from the interior of the hotel. So how did the enter to wreak havoc? One of the terrorists has blurted out that they had booked into the Taj to store their ammunition. What happened to security? An airport screens bags and passengers all the way to the passenger's shoes and belts. So where was the slip up in this case?
  • Who is responsible for this mess and what will the government do to bring these miscreants to book?
  • Can someone guarantee that the captured and convicted terrorists at least this time will be dealt with immediately and not kept indefinitely in prison thus preventing a future hostage situation ?
  • What will the government do to protect us from future attacks? At least this time?
  • What will be done for police reform? Will the government protect those who protect us fearlessly?
  • Is the government strong enough to take a tough stance without worrying about political implications?
  • What will the government do to make us feel secure in our own city / country?
  • Why do our intelligence sources always say 'I told you so'! Who is preventing the flow of information?

As citizens, we demand to know, and we demand to see action. We have waited 15 years and now we are hurt, shaken and possibly stirred.

And while everyone talks about two iconic hotels that form the basis of India's affluent, I guess at least we, since neither the government nor the media wish to think about the numbers killed at the CST station, should give those people a moment of remembrance. Those deaths matter most to those families, since the cost of a meal at Tier one hotels is the monthly income of those families. They have lost breadwinners, families, households. They are Mumbai's poor. And they were sacrificed in drones. But who cares! Marie Antoinette moment? Yes indeed. Dear politicians, you just lost 50 members of your precious vote bank. At least you should care.....

The Disillusion

The blood stains have all been wiped away. The fires have been doused, only charred walls remain to remind us of the hurt, pain and agony we've suffered. The dead have reached peace but those left behind will need to hunt for peace for the rest of their lives. Politicians have provided terribly disgusting sound bites here and there, and the already disillusioned people are flabbergasted. Hitherto unknown celebrities want to 'burst into tears' and express their sorrow at the tragedy as long as a pouty picture of theirs will be published alongside. So called 'daredevil journalists' went ahead jeopardizing their lives and the rescue missions in an attempt to be a part of the action. Morbid indeed! In brazen acts of conscience-deprived politics, people are still fighting against the opposite political party, since polls are around the corner. And the poor common man on the street is feeling as scared, as insecure, as possible. Suddenly something akin to the 'Dark Ages' seems to have descended on us. We have no faith in the security system, no belief that the government will do something beyond political rhetoric, full belief that the terror attacks are a reality and can strike any time.

A terrorist is someone who is absolutely not amenable to thought, conscience or reason. He has no remorse or regret towards the mass murder he brings upon civilization. There is no use trying to reform such maniacs. The only way out is to prevent the mushrooming of such sociopaths. But you can be caught unawares once, twice maybe. But almost 20 times, in different parts of the country over the last 15 years? One must realize that before claiming that India is the next economic superpower, or a powerhouse of economic growth that would set the direction of world economy in the years to come, one must remember that no matter what the economic potential, no one invests in a war zone. What prosperity can you grant to a non-existent population? And what use is a government that can't protect its own population? Bashing the West and its stifling security policies is a favorite pastime in this part of the world. But at least post 9/11 touch wood, there have been no terror attacks there! In spite of scratching the wounds of the Islamic population in the Middle East. And here, we are a 'patient nation' who can and will put up with torture forever!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Terror Attack - What Mumbai feels

The attack has been thwarted. The sanitizing process of the Taj is on. Oberoi and Nariman operations are over. The full impact of the crippling attack is beginning to sink in. Mumbai has been hit.. Again... and in the worst way since ages. If one more person speaks about the 'resilience' and 'indomitable spirit' of my city, I am sure many of us would give that human being a slap on the face. The general mood in my city is one of despair and disgust. We are tired of being hit. We are tired of being taken for granted. We are tired of the inaction.

First - we are appalled at the shoddy infrastructure and equipment given to the police. My heart goes out to the fearless cops - many a time constables, who went with Lathis to counter AK 47 touting insane, conscience-less terrorists, unmindful of the consequences. The policemen have .303 rifles against machine guns. But the call of duty doesn't check for equipment and the men marched forth. Reminded me of our wars in the 1800s against the British - bows and arrows or swords against blazing guns. As a Mumbaikar, and I speak for all of us, we feel that before expecting the police to protect us, we would like to see the policemen better equipped. They too are human beings.

Second - we are appalled at the political apathy. Politicians politicizing such a grave situation, showing a lack of concern and unity in such a situation. Cliched statements using standard words like 'dastardly', 'heinous', 'barbaric' are surfacing over and over in the media, with such totally hollow, meaningless sentences being made by practically every politician. Some politicians are so brazen as to resort to election rhetoric in the midst of this crisis. 'We need not worry about those who have come through boat, but must worry about those who have come from vote.' - was one such horrifyingly brazen message during this time of crisis. As a Mumbaikar, I am flabbergasted, disgusted at such behavior.

But most importantly we thank the Commandos of the NSG, the army, the Marcos, the Air Force and the police for putting an end to this mayhem. Getting a fighter helicopter to hover over a congested residential area to air drop reinforcements, the commandos smoothly combing every floor and carrying out the rescue operations while minimizing, in fact totally avoiding civilian damage, the fearless cops responding to cries of help, and finally members of the law enforcement agencies performing the supreme sacrifice. What can I say. Thanks to them I can write this post feeling totally secure.

Tomorrow life will be back to normal. But the spirit of Mumbai has been shaken, but now, we will take no more. We no longer wish to be the calm, composed, all-enduring city to bear terror attack after terror attack with the patience of a grand mother. And now, we as Mumbaikars are angry, hurt and we demand answers and action.

Crises and Media - Part 2

'BREAKING NEWS'. Almost every statement becomes breaking news. Any statement - ratified or otherwise becomes breaking news. In the mad rush to be the first to bring news to the people, our newscasters broadcast anything and everything. Insensitive to the carnage at hand, with a mission to sensationalize everything they see.

Like I'd said before, why do we, the common people need to know full details including vantage points of the commandos in a rescue operation? I would exhort all news channel reporters to please read at least some spy novels by Ludlum or John Le Carre. That would suggest to them the degree of preparedness in terms of technology terrorists can get into. Forget sat phones. Everyone would have a cell phone. Is it difficult for an accomplice to send a message like ' Fourth floor - right corner'??? These news channels can be viewed all over the world, and the least the security forces can ask for, is the comfort of carrying out their operation in peace. But no. Our reporters treat a hostage situation like a Tamasha. They herd around the site of the attack and a handful of Rapid Action Force personnel are needed to control that crowd! Tomorrow, God forbid, if a stray bullet kills a journalist, there will be unending discussions on the callous behavior of security personnel!!!

Around noon yesterday news channels were blacked out here. There was a massive hue and cry on the same. Today's papers have carried a report on the same, wherein Ravi Singh, VP Cable Operators Distribution Union has said that this move was uncalled for, since the news channels were carrying vital information about hostages to their near and dear ones. He also said that the blackout was responsible for the rumors about renewed firing in other parts of Mumbai like CST and Marine Lines. As a resident aware of what was being broadcasted and what was actually happening, I would like to clarify that a couple of news channels went on air with the rumors and then the blackout was implemented. As for vital information to near and dear ones, save for a scrolling list of rescued hostages, there was no information forthcoming! Besides, what could they have relayed???? NSG didn't know the location of the hostages, how were these reporters to know? And messages from near and dear ones to the hostages? Hahaha, cable connections were cut in the hotels from the start of the operation.

So, the fact remains that media persons were out for their pound of flesh no matter what the cost. They wanted their face to be associated with gruesome images, heroic images, the cost to hostages and security personnel notwithstanding. Later in the evening, the Naval chief went on air to say that the terrorists had blackberries (d-uh, who doesn't these days???) and so they were constantly monitoring the media and perhaps media overexposure might have affected the mission. Vindication to my earlier post!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pakistan - our worthy neighbors

When was the last time we trusted Pakistan and they lived up to the trust? I can't remember a single instance. Lies, deceit and betrayal are almost second nature to the way that country deals with India. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Every time India extended the olive branch, the tree was chopped down. And we have lost precious Jawans and army personnel while trying to counter the Pakistanis. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

We signed the Lahore bus pact and sent a friendly bus to Lahore. Then PM Vajpayee travelled to Pakistan. Musharraf visited India and took pictures with his wife against the backdrop of the Taj, and all the while silently a sinister terror plot was being hatched against India. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Kargil. Infiltrators entered in hordes, captured major portions of Kashmir and jeopardized our sovereignty and all the while, we were believing the friendly gestures of our neighbors. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. We lost young men in the line of fire, and the infiltration was supported entirely by the Pakistani army. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

Flight IC 814 was hijacked. A passenger was murdered. The hijackers demanded the release of Maulana Masood Azhar - a captured dreaded Pakistani terrorist. India negotiated, and finally gave in to the demands. Masood Azhar was a free man. He returned to Pakistan and started off with inflamed speeches against India, declaring Jihad on India. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. He floated the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad which was responsible for the attacks on India's Parliament house in 2004. The terrorists were completely supported and funded by Pakistan. India's prestige and honor was challenged once again by Pakistan. Again we lost men to the Pakistani terrorists. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

Almost everyday families are attacked in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits have fled Srinagar ages ago and started life from scratch elsewhere, though they are free by constitutional rights to live in peace wherever they wish to in the country. Women raped, children killed indiscriminately by Pakistani terrorists. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Impressionable Kashmiri youths are brainwashed on Pakistani training grounds and converted into terrorists - Fidayeen - suicide attackers. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

Mumbai was rocked by serial blasts in 1993. The perpetrators are hiding in Pakistan -say intelligence sources. Dawood Ibrahim, wanted for scores of underworld and terrorist activities in India, is in Pakistan - say intelligence sources. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Bomb blasts near the Taj Hotel in 2003, bomb blasts in trains in 2006 led to mass massacre of Indians. The attacks were all linked to Pakistani terrorists. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

The current attacks on Mumbai - at the Taj, the Oberoi-Trident and Nariman house, sources claim, carry a Pakistani footprint. Pakistan vociferously denies any involvement. Because after all, Pakistan is an honorable nation.

The PM has asked the chief of the ISI to come to India to offer 'intelligence'. Maybe the welcome party must include the widows of ATS chief Hemant Karkare, top cops Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte and perhaps the loved ones of all those who have lost their lives in this attack. Since Pakistan is an honorable nation. And such a visit deserves such honor.....

Crises and Media - part 1

Crisis situations traditionally feed the continuous dope needed by the 24x7 news channels. You have daredevil reporters out on the streets covering the story 'in the line of fire'. Camera persons effortlessly zoom in and out of the actual site of action. Thanks to the all new powerful digital video cams of today' age, one can zoom up to a distance of over 100 meters even! So you have the journalists going non stop about the situation and lens-happy camera persons accentuating the stories with images. The result - UTTER IRRESPONSIBILITY.

I am sorry to be so blunt, but in the extreme enthusiasm to be the first to provide 'breaking news', people telecast images that showed commandos landing from helicopters, taking up positions and so on. Now, looking at the images, if I were around, I could have quite easily comprehended where they were landing and how they were moving. The terrorists are supposed to have satellite phones, and the mother ship that was hijacked is rumored to be very very well equipped. How long does it take to transmit information? In today's day and age, technology is so advanced and no one needs to be told that generally terrorists are wayyyyyyyyy ahead of the common man in terms of technology, and their crooked, deranged mind, operates in a sinister manner. So how difficult would it be to relay information to the terrorists, when it is clear that they are operating with cartloads of outside help???? And as citizens, why do we need to know inch by inch, what commandos are doing to save 200 lives? This is not a movie, 200+ commandos, army personnel and policemen are facing fire and grenades to save lives of civilians. And these are news channels, and not entertainment channels. But who cares!!! In spite of repeated appeals, the cameras never stopped. The result - during the crescendo of the rescue mission, all news channels were blacked out. Period.

The second pain - the reporters making their own conclusions and bannering those conclusions as 'breaking news'. For instance - one reporter was talking to the director of the NSG, Mr Dutta, on Thursday evening, who said that one terrorist at the Taj was injured and that the NSG was closing in. The reporter said, " So that means we have 2 terrorists captured alive." DNSG was quick to correct her saying, " We haven't captured the one at the Taj yet, but we hope to do so, soon". Within seconds, the news channel said - 'Breaking news - 2 terrorists captured alive'. This same second terrorist at the Taj kept up explosions and gunfire well into Friday afternoon and as I write this, there are reports of fresh violence from the Taj. Then in the extreme enthusiasm of being in the middle of the action - just as a commando operation was about to begin, one reporter caught hold of a passerby and asked him whether the operation has begun. The guy guffawed and said, "Mujhe kya maalum ???" and walked off. Perhaps most of these Indian reporters belive that they need to keep speaking non stop, describing the images one sees on their screens, as if the viewer is blind! or brainless. Unmindful of whether they make sense or otherwise, in order to prove their 'sincerity' in relaying the 'truth' they go on and on talking, making baseless guesses and speculating on the rescue tactics employed in the situation at hand. As a result the non stop chattering ends up getting on one's nerves. The reports keep swinging 'yes hostage, no hostage, mission over, mission underway', just because no one ratifies what one speaks. I have seen foreign media cover such crises and their reports cover direct accounts, analyses by experts, professors and policy makers in some cases, government officials and so on. Over here, never once has any reporter even provided an impassioned view about implications, methods, government actions and so on.

The third highly annoying part is the stupid questions part. Unmindful of the situation, some silly questions are - 'How do you feel about this whole mess?' I wish I could answer with a song - 'Time of my life'. Yesterday, when Ratan Tata, head of the Taj group fielded questions, he was asked a monetary evaluation of the extent of the damages and the amount he would spend on compensation for his staff. I was disgusted by the question, and I can only imagine the agony in Mr Tata's mind. Another stark case - One man was waiting for news about his brother at the Oberoi, and our reporter asked him how he was feeling. The poor chap could say nothing except a helpless 'What can I say'. I was told that on CNN a reporter accosted a passerby and asked - "When did Bombay become Mumbai?" If this was indeed true!!! Holy smokes!!! Another reporter catches a passerby who's walking, and asks him what he's doing. 'Walking', he says matter of factly.

The gross lack of responsibility in the media floats rumors, in a city already plagued by terror and uncertainty. The least the people with the power to reach a million others can do, would be to be responsible and try to help in solving the issue, and if they can't solve the issue, please stay away, and not complicate the lives of the law enforcement forces.

So while we have been watching this whole nefarious saga unfold, with the excitement and nervousness associated with a cricket match, the annoying chatar patar continues.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is there peace anywhere? Or are there only pieces left to be picked up?

Hostages in The Taj, the Oberoi Trident and Nariman House in Mumbai. Gunfire and explosions at CST station, on roads and a hospital. The terror shows no signs of subsiding yet.

In Sri Lanka, fresh fights erupt between the government and the LTTE. More casualties. The situation hasn't calmed down in ages.

In DR Congo, historically animous Hutus and Tutsis are fighting again. God knows the numbers who will turn/die refugees.

Fresh attacks and fights in volatile Iraq. That place has not been peaceful in centuries!

Russia and Georgia are on a cold war over South Ossetia. When the cold war could get heated - who knows.

Iran conducted an exhibition of its nuclear prowess, while asserting that the technology is for civilian purposes only. Really? Who knows.

Inflation is terrrrrrrrrrribly high in Zimbabwe. The economy is still in shambles.

Kenya is still fighting over the botched elections.

American Economy is into recession.

Japan is already in recession - AGAIN.

And somewhere, Billy Joel sings....

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Mission Accomplished - for the terrorists that is...

A terror plan with global ramifications was hatched. The idea was to target scores of innocent civilians on Indian soil, but in key foreign tourist hubs, so that the carnage could be two-pronged. Disrupt Mumbai, while hurting the world. A Canadian newspaper has quoted a Canadian national who was in the Taj during this attack, saying that the terrorists selectively picked on Americans or Brits as their targets. The article further said that the Canadian's belongings were thoroughly searched to verify the fact that he was indeed a Canadian, and was let go. An Israeli soft spot - Nariman house was another target. Such 'islamic - historically' sensitive choices accentuate the conspiracy theory that there is a bigger, global, more sinister hand in this whole turn of events.

But look at what this attack has done. 125 people dead, and over 325 injured. Traffic was terribly thin all day. Schools, colleges were closed. Mumbai University cancelled all papers that were scheduled for today. Very few offices were open. Factories undoubtedly remained closed. Tourists hastily packed up, taking the first flight out of Mumbai, giving the whole Konkan coast holiday the boot. The one day India - England series has been truncated. (I am sure Kevin Pieterson is heaving a huge sigh of relief, since he is being spared the ignominy of losing in such a terribly embarrassing manner). The stock exchanges are closed. The Indian coffers have just been deprived of crores of rupees as revenue. The wariness of the global community towards India is slowly rising. If geographical regions were to be demarcated based on internal security levels, can India soon be joining the ranks of the Middle East? Morbid! And most importantly, the situation is still tense, with no fresh reports of the terror coming to an end. A handful of terrorists have managed to hold this city to ransom.

So while the rescue and elimination mission is still underway, as far as the terrorists are concerned - it is mission accomplished.

Mumbai Terrorized - the agony continues.....

The situation in Mumbai has unfolded a bit. At least now, we know something about the number of attacks and the locations of the attacks. The differences between yesterday's post and today's post clearly show how the informed guesses have metamorphosed over time. As of yesterday, there was news of explosions at some key locations like outside Metro Cinema, in the lobby of the Oberoi Trident and at the Taj Dome. But today, as it turns out, the hostage situation is of greater gravity. But what is even more worrying is the gross uncertainty. How many terrorists? How many hostages? Who are being held hostage? What are the terrorists' locations? What is their greater plan? How do we tackle such a situation. We know how to handle serial bomb blasts - search for bombs, diffuse them, alert people towards unattended things - end of story. But here, for the first time, we have a massive hostage situation - in not one but 3 places. The Taj, known for housing some of the most high powered business meetings and known to be the trave pitstop for most of the globe's celebrities when they visit Mumbai, The Oberoi Trident and Nariman house. What is the motive? Who are the targets? What do these people want? How many more are there? We can only speculate. As of now, the toll is 101 people comprising of 14 police personnel and 6 foreigners. Over 275 are injured. But since no one knows the exact location of these terrorists, one can't even say how long the carnage will last and how many more heads will roll.

But the fact remains that there is no cause so great as to demand the killing of innocents. The smiling pictures of the cowards on all newspapers is repulsive. How terribly insane can anyone get? And if they really feel that their cause is so strong, then why did they escape showing their backs? It is very easy to wreak havoc and run away. But cowards always take the easier route. It is very easy to put your tail between your legs and run away - like a jackal. But it takes courage to lead from the front. And courage comes when your cause is on the side of truth and is justified as being right. Courage comes when you are not afraid of the consequences to yourself, since you want a greater consequence for the greater good. Courage comes in the form of ATS chief Hemant Karkare, ACP Ashok Kamte and cop Vijay Salaskar. Courage is what is possessed by the police who boldly guide people out, make people duck, while themselves being unsure of messengers of death that can come out of nowhere. Courage is the fireman who hoists himself high up to douse a fire, with no bullet proof protection whatsoever, just because he wants to save the few caught up in the Taj Dome, without for a minute wondering whether the victims could indeed be the perpetrators. Without wondering whether the people stuck up there could be terrorists, who wouldn't for a minute flinch before downing a bullet through the fireman's skull. Courage comes in the form of the hotel staff, who tried to maintain calm amongst the hotel hostages by giving regular updates and directions on how to proceed, themselves unsure of which bullet would come whizzing by and deprive them of the chance to utter another word. Courage comes in the form of truth. Salaam Mumbai - once again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terror in Mumbai - again

Terror hits Mumbai. AGAIN! As we speak. Bizarre! Gun firing and low intensity explosions. AGAIN!! The last time I checked, there were 5 instances, and now, as I write this, the count of attacks is 7. And still counting? I don't know. The attacks are at one of the most upmarket places in Mumbai - India rather. Shootings, explosions - typical of the barbaric acts of terrorism. To add on to the chaos, we have a hostage-like situation at the Taj, and there are terrorists inside the Cama hospital. At least 165 people are injured and the news is still coming in.

But as we speak this, the nagging question remains. A question for which there has been no answer. WHY? And WHY AGAIN AND AGAIN. We in Mumbai have the distinctive dishonor of having 'hosted' numerous terror attacks. Serial bomb blasts in theaters, crowded localities, the stock exchange, trains, trauma centers and so on. And now, in the Central Railway terminus and a number of key South Mumbai hotels. Why? What is anyone trying to prove? Does God welcome murderers and killers in through the pearly gates of paradise? Does providential justice never get dispensed? Do policemen not have families? Or are the lives of innocent people less important than religion or fanaticism? Why do we always resort to a reactive response to terrorism and internal security? Why do we always have news reports of disregarded intel coming in 3 days after a terror attack? Why only my city again and again?

They say that what cannot be cured, needs to be endured. So if we can't stop the terrorists, we look to the positive part of the city's spirit. We are now so attuned to a life of terror attacks that we treat every experience as a learning exercise, and treat the lost lives as an oblation to the anti-terror learning pyre. But we maintain that as a city we can never be cowed down. Tomorrow will be business as usual. A minute for the lost lives and then back to the jostling on the local train, the haggling with the rickshaw driver, the unending honking on roads that are perennially under construction. So, we hold the notoriety of having had the maximum number of terror attacks in an urban milieu, while priding ourselves on the fact that city is the epitome of Gandhian philosophy. If hit once, we show the other cheek and so on and on and on....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bail out to sail out....How much is too much?

Help!! SOS!!! Bail me out! These words resound all over the place. A month ago, the biggies of Investment Banking - Bear Stearns was the first to buckle. Then, Lehman, Merill Lynch and JP Morgan, saw the red. Black rock became DSP Black Rock. AIG was 'rescued'. Lehman became 'Nomura'. It was a massive bloodbath - so to say, with other global biggies clamoring to devour the spoils. There were talks of people wanting to purchase the hardware assets of Lehman - the servers, routers, cables, et al. Understandable, since IB needs a robust infrastructure, and so decidedly these 'assets' would fetch a lot more. Clearly that was true, since all said and done, these were tangible assets, unlike the banks' prized high priced assets called Collateralized Debt Obligation instruments - which actually brought about the mayhem. The economy showed signs of collapse, recession - of global proportions. The pillars of economic boom crumbled like a pack of cards. And before one could blink, the symbols of growth and economic prosperity were gone! At the threshold of B school, people dream of a job at Lehman or JPMC. And now, those entities are gone without a trace. The feeling is akin to that felt by one who flew out of NY on Sept 10, 2001 and came back on Sept 12, 2001.

So the banks are down and out, people are seeing the value of their real estate assets plummeting earthwards, the stock markets that hold a greater part of the Western World's hard earned money are going through negative uncharted territory, people are losing jobs, uncertainty prevails. Human nature - when it is uncertain whether I would have a job tomorrow, I wouldn't wish to go buy Jimmy Choos! Oh, well, I may wish, but I wouldn't get myself to go buy em! So no one wants to invest in investment bank funds and portfolios. They demand capital protection. They do not want 'negative' ROI - at least. So, when no one buys, who buys? Uncle SAM!!! The result - bailout packages for AIG, nationalization of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, 700 Billion dollars worth of taxpayers' money forms the Herculean backbone against which the crumbling pillars of the American (I'd rather say Western - Barclays was rescued as well) economy. Citigroup is the newest entrant into the 'Bhikmangoo' group, screaming, "Rescue me, I messed up!!" At the end of it all, it seems like Lehman and JPMC were not favored! But how long can the government condone 'overdrives', mismanagement and a gross lack of prudence?

Incidentally I seem to have overshot my credit card limit while I was busy being fascinated (read enchanted) by Louis Vuitton, and Jimmy Choo. Can the government bail me out as well? Please?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Victim of circumstance

Thomas Hardy was a great man. Yeah like he needs the greatness certificate from me. Cut to Return of the Native. Barring exotic names, another high point was the conversion of seemingly benign episodes into having super disastrous consequences. One of the most memorable ones - Mrs Yeobright visiting Clym. After a rather acrimonious start to her relationship with Eustacia Wye post the latter's wedding to Clym, she decides to try to patch things up and goes over to Clym's house. Wildeve - Eustacia's 'ex' is in the house, since he has come a-visiting. Eustacia sees her mother-in-law through the window and hurries to usher Wildeve out the back door. and while at the porch, she hears Clym saying 'mother'. So, she assumes that he has opened the door and let his mother inside and so, she lingers longer in the garden. Clym, however has muttered 'mother' in his sleep. Mrs Yeobright, meanwhile, receives no response at the door, and she knows full well that both her son and her daughter-in-law are in the house, since she saw Eustacia looking at her through the window and she also saw Clym's gear by the door. So downcast, she starts going back and exclaims that she is a 'broken-hearted woman who was cast off by her son'. Sad and depressed, she trudges back homeward and is bitten by a snake. Venom combined with exhaustion from heat, kills her. And in true Hardy fashion they all lived sadly ever after.

The juxtaposition of circumstance and a certain behavior in a certain situation - somehow provides a number of stray episodes in life. More often than not, our hugely volatile moods are an offshoot of these episodes. So in a way these episodes, provide the spice of life. So failure to meet a bunch of friends on two disparate occasions once on account of health issues and once on account of work issues, gets misconstrued as an exhibition of snobbery. The Hardy admirer in me screams to say that I am 'an overworked/ill individual who was cast off by her friends'. But no one reads Hardy today and so no one would even bother to hear my sentence, let alone listen to it. So when I get angry with a friend, - who was supposedly in 'the inner circle' - for not having called when he happened to land in town, (my logic was that international flight tickets and trips halfway across the globe do not happen at 1 hour's notice), and scream at him for his gross lack of motivation to keep a friendship, I guess somewhere I should hear him say "The resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

International conFLAGration

The other day, there was a heated debate on BBC about oceanic waters and the vast territory that is covered by sea. In school we learnt that over two thirds of the earth is covered by sea and so, the earth is called the blue planet. This debate spoke of an event that happened a year ago, wherein Russia sent two submarines into the Arctic Ocean bed, and planted a titanium flag down there. An official report is here...

Anyway, the panel comprised of people from all countries that border the Arctic Ocean. Everyone conceded that the issue is of great importance, since in the light of the energy crisis, new places for exploration are a necessity. And what better place than an ocean floor, that has remained snow capped for so long!! The Russian representative in the debate was vehement in saying that nothing should be read between the lines in the whole action, since Russia just wanted to show that its subs could go pretty deep down and stay there for a while as well.

So far maritime issues are generally dealt with on the basis of a tacit, implicit agreement of goodwill between all parties involved. But the issue of how to divide unexplored sea bed and the natural treasures it holds, can actually keep simmering and no one would be able to make out when it breaks out into a boil!

The funniest thing however, was the timing of this debate. India had launched Chandrayaan, its moon mission, and had successfully planted the Indian flag-bearing Moon Impact Probe near the Shackleton crater on the Moon's South Pole on 14th November 2008 - India's presence on uncharted territory and here there was a renewed debate on a flag planted on the Arctic sea bed a year ago - Russia's so called claim on uncharted territory. Shakespeare said, " What's in a name"... I ask, " What's in a flag?".... Time will tell, a hundred years later.........

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Pa....

There was a piece in today’s ToI editorial about different bosses. It spoke of the sweet boss, the malicious boss, the overbearing boss and the weak-kneed boss. The timing was sincerely uncanny! Why this piece on bosses today? For today is the birthday of one of my bosses, who falls within the ‘worst’ category. You must be surprised since worst bosses are stuff nightmares are made of, and one tends to forget such species as soon as possible! But remembering such a chap’s birthday????? I’ll tell you why… Well, as per the article, the worst bosses are those who are genuinely concerned for you as a sub-ordinate. Such bosses go all out to ensure that you are happy with the work you do and can deliver what you can. Then why worst? Well, that’s because such bosses cannot be gossiped about. Such bosses are not the butt of discrete complaints around the coffee machine. Such bosses are never the subject of discussions that begin with ‘Oh my worthless, useless, spineless boss’. Such bosses are those who you never address as ‘Sir’. Such bosses are called ‘Pa’.


I had the privilege of working under the aegis of one such human being, a manager par excel lance. In 3 years I never saw him lose his temper, in 8 years another colleague had never seen him lose his temper. He is the best in what he does, to the extent that those who report to him check, re-check, cross-check, double-check their opinions before facing him. Taking a point of view to his cabin and returning without 10 new perspectives and questions to ponder used to be a rarity. When the going would get tough however, the team would never realize what fire can be like. The unwavering faith that he’d have in the team, would never allow him to expose his protégés to hostility. Even when his protégés are far away and involved in projects not even remotely associated with him. The net effect? His protégés would push themselves to the limit and beyond, just to make him look good in front of his superiors. His protégés would look up to him as a mentor, as a friend long after they are off the payroll of the firm. He goes on to become the benchmark against which all future supervisors are compared and found wanting. Anyone and everyone who had any remote association with him would have nothing but a kind word to say about him.


So as India celebrates Children’s day, a select few of us take pride in saying – Happy Birthday Pa, it is truly a privilege to have known you…

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thoughtful Thursday : Girls as best friends....

A group of girls as best friends for life, with no tiffs whatsoever and staying in touch very regularly. True? Yeah as true as the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. What is so different in women being best buddies? The answer lies in inherent traits and societal mores! No, I didn't pick that up from a 'Chicken Soup for the Bored Soul' book. But, yes, thick friendships among men and those among women are different.

The pleasant memories are plenty. Late night talks about anything and everything. A breed with the uncanny ability to appreciate chick flicks and see the art within those movies. Blasting the 'male dominated world', while at the same time giving a nonchalant shrug, saying 'who cares, since girls just wanna have fun'. The never ending shopping binges. Only a lady can understand another's relentless poring over a choice between two nearly identical shades of lip color. D-uh! Men are almost always color blind. They can't tell a red from a green - a weakness that shows up in their driving skills!!!

But being female is not always so hunky dory. As kids, girls bicker and fight over the pettiest of things. 'Whose dress is prettier', or 'Who is taller, fairer, cuter'. These bickerings graduate to higher levels as the girls grow, with the result being full fledged cat fights! Even among seeming 'best friends'. Jealousy and a certain degree of perennial comparison between one another, doesn't allow two women to be as open with one another as two men would be with each other. A dash of over-sensitivity just seems to add more fuel to a fire. So, when she doesn't invite me to her pet dog's christening ceremony, I get angry and refuse to talk to her for the rest of my life. More often than not, I really don't end up talking to her. But reason dawns upon me so much later! And by then maybe she is already married and has a litter of her own!

And one day, coffee in hand on a rainy day, at our respective homes, when the kids are asleep, the last work email has been checked and answered, dinner is finished and the dishes done, gazing out of the window, looking at nothing, the old memories would come flooding back, and one would long for those days of yapping, pajama parties, and good old girlie banter. But by then our close-knit small world has literally been exploded sending the shards in different directions. And all we have are the memories and the hated phrase - 'if only'....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Blackberry Revolution

The other day, I received a mail from a friend at 3:30 am. Nothing very important. Just a response to the usual 'Hey Wassup' email. The response was a two liner and the tag line said - 'Sent via Blackberry'. Whoa! This got me thinking about the great Blackberry Revolution.

In a previous post I had spoken about the sea change in technology in a gap of just a few years. There was a time, when mail meant ordinary post. And now,the same ordinary post has been christened 'snail mail' and technology is developing at a feverish pace for getting the world closer. And now, the whole buzzword called 'collaboration' is almost reaching a crescendo, with people being forever accessible on cellphones and email. And I mean forever, thanks to the Blackberry revolution! There was a time, when people's contact numbers were their desk numbers at work and only the closest quarters were provided the sacrosanct home numbers. One wasn't supposed to call up another's home, unless it was a 'Mayday situation'. And now, thanks to the cellphone, all sense of decency in terms of not disturbing someone at 1 am at night has gone to the dogs! One receives messages and emails at the dinner table, and these tasks are 'immediate actionables'. Thank God for spoons since immediate action means an immediate jab on the text editor of the cell phone or Blackberry. The last task of the day no longer remains listening to calm music or reading a book. The last task of the day is one last check of the email, and responses therein. But then again, that check may not be the last check, since there could be a call or a message at 2 am at night, and you could send out another response at 2:05 am, jabbing at the keys of your blackberry like a man or a woman possessed.

No doubt, technology makes life a lot easier. I remember reading an article on the i-phone's acceptance in Japan. The article described a day in the life of a certain Claude, and how his cell phone was his true companion for everything. And no, what was written was not an exaggeration, since people do swipe cell phones at payment counters in Tokyo! Here's the excerpt that appealed to me the most and I quote -

"If the iPhone is the holy grail of hardware and software design, then Japanese cell phones are the holy grail of convergence devices. In no other part of the world will you find a phone that checks email, trade stocks, watch TV, act as a charge card, plays music, interface with other phones, act as portable computer, book tickets, 3+ megapixel cameras, unlock doors, remotely control other devices, GPS navigation, mobile shopping, bar code and fingerprint scanners, push to talk with multiple people, video chatting and conferencing, and of course . . . cell phone.

I spoke to my Japanese friend and asked him what he thought about the iPhone. Most people in America love it. Most of the press are enamored. To preface, Claude is a 27y.o. Japanese male I met in my college days. He lives right outside Tokyo working as a textile designer. He thinks the iPhone is super sexy. To him, it doesn't look like any other phone out there. He loves how slim it is and is completely smitten with the multi-touch interface, but when asked if he'd give up his Sharp branded phone; he says no.

Claude's typical day starts with him checking his email on his phone. He gets all his daily tasks and calendaring events this way. He then syncs it with his computer. He pays for the subway by placing the phone on a kiosk granting him access past the gates. The commute is spent watching TV on his phone by rotating the screen. A small antenna extends up and catches the wireless digital TV signals (something we will never have here in America). About 45 minutes later, he's in Tokyo and heads to a vending machine to buy fresh fruit and water. He places the phone up against a pad. The vending machine reads his bank information which is tied into his phone. He then places his thumb on the phone's tiny thumbprint reader to verify his identity. As he makes his way to the office, he waves the phone near the door handle to unlock it. During a 10 minute break, he's flips thru a magazine and sees something he wants to buy. The item has a tiny stamp size barcode pictogram next to it. He scans the pictogram with his phone. A receipt and shipping confirmation hits his email minutes later. As the day ends, he syncs with his work computer and goes grocery shopping paying for items with his phone. Before heading home, he heads to a bar his friend has invited him too. He uses the phone to give him step-by-step directions. The day is finally over and his phone's battery is nearing the end of its life. He plugs it in and goes about the rest of the evening relaxing before bed"

Sounds nice? Well, it would be, if technology managed to just be an assistant. But in today's world of the 'forever busy' individuals, sending emails in the dead of the night just seems sooooo 'kewl' that people literally end up being servile dependents of technology. Slavish maybe! It looks cool, it looks busy, it looks important, but it is addictive! A friend of mine once complained how her husband didn't find time to talk to her at home, and so, she hijacked him to a coffee shop, only to find him busy punching deals into his Blackberry in response to a continuous Bloomberg feed! She, being at her wits' end later remarked that her father who had no jazzy gadgets to help him was equally, if not more accomplished in life and so, all these cranky objects are just a reason to be inefficient and disorganized. Wow! This got me thinking. Do we really need to get so attached to technology? Does our or for that matter any line of work truly warrant emails and messages at 2 am at night? That too when the recipients are in my own time zone? Is this addiction the reason why all advertisements for vacations scream 'Reclaim your life' or 'Freedom from cellphones' or 'Break Free'? Hmm... So, late tonight, after a day of continuous emails, calls and messages, at work, I was finally enjoying a cup of coffee and yet again, the phone began to ring. And this time, I decided to act differently.... Coffee with music - a deadly combination and indeed one of the biggest advantages of having your favorite song as your cell phone's ringtone!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trends on Tuesday : Tacky Traveling

I know the aviation industry is being hit big time. But tell me one industry that has not been hit by the recession? Ok, the underworld, you say. But maybe the media fills enough pages with horror stories of the economy, and so, is left with hardly any space for covering gruesome stories of the underworld. Think about it! Anyway, speaking of aviation, the past 3 - 4 years have been the age of diversification in airlines in India. From the usual Indian Airlines and Jet Airways, we expanded to IA, Jet, Sahara, Kingfisher, to low cost airlines like Indigo, SpiceJet, Air Deccan and again shrunk to IA, Jet, Jetlite, Kingfisher and a couple of other carriers who could stay afloat. Economically and literally.

Yes, low cost airlines. Once upon a time, not so long ago, low cost airlines were a boon to India. Till the Laloo revolution in Indian Railways, and the OPEC revolution in international crude politics (pun unintended), the prices of air tickets and train tickets were truly comparable. And a Surf Excel ad could actually show a father choosing to go by train instead of a flight just so that he could give the experience to his son. Wow! Anyone could travel by an airplane. Legends flew out on all sides, about how Air Deccan was similar to the regional buses, and people would throw handkerchiefs to block seats! No one has ever confirmed this ridiculous legend, but yes, people have spoken about travellers carrying food aboard and sharing it all around just like they did in good old trains. Sandwiches and drinks would be wheeled in, but no one would scream - 'Chaaayaaaa' or 'Soooooopay'. The marketing and sales pitches would be discreet and the prices of the merchandise - exorbitant. The whole travel method received an 'upgrade' so to say. What didn't change however, was the mentality of travelers. Screaming aboard an airplane, blocking the passageway while 'hanging out' with fellow passengers, and annoying show-off habits - these characteristics got upgraded in terms of degree and extent. They just got more amplified. The net result - airline security check tags dangling from the zippers of handbags. If one could open and close the purse a million times, couldn't they just pull off the tag during one such effort? Didn't they notice this obscene tag dangling in a totally unwieldy fashion? At least I did! Aha! the tag made me notice. Mission Accomplished indeed!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Moody Monday : An endless boxing match

Late night yapping sessions with friends are similar to drunken night outs. Honest. They make you deliriously high as long as you keep chitchatting about things as crazy as old school nonsense to modern day work politics. You don't realize how sleepy you are till the time you finally hit the sack. And we actually hit the sack at 5:30 am, since somewhere in some obscure school book we learnt that humans sleep at night. The result? The next morning and the day after, are spent in a quasi 'drunken stupor'. People liken you to the Lotus Eaters or the sloths. Or even the slug that feasts happily on the leaves of your potted plant.

One such 'friendly hangover' later, dawned a hideous Monday morning in the boxing match of my life. Round 1. And I could hear the gong go 'BONGGGGG'. Or was that just my alarm clock? Note to self - Nickelback's Fight for all Wrong Reasons must be removed from being my alarm sound. I refused to believe the fact that the Monday had dawned. I drearily pulled myself out of bed, and proceeded toward the mundane tasks that comprise the 'waking up' process. Ever wondered how you always feel under the weather on a Monday morning? I am sure I was running a temperature today morning, as I woke up. But who'll listen? At least in school I needed a leave note. At work, if I give in to the 'I am sick on Monday Morning' syndrome, I lose the opportunity of taking the day off when the blues get absolutely unbearable. So, sigh! I then headed out to the world in my living room, only to find my coffee on the table, and company missing. My folks wanted to subtly tell me that they had a very hectic schedule and helping me beat my Monday blues was by and far the last thing on their mind. So all alone for a coffee with no one to crib to. Round 2. Yet again ... BONGGGGGGG. Then, bidding a near - poignant goodbye to the cosy confines of my house, I headed out into the hostile mean Monday world.

I have already been preoccupied with a certain gnawing anxiety over the past few days and the fight with my thoughts and 'What If' analyses has been another duel in itself. "But the human mind has a tendency to turn towards the gnawing thoughts, and so, always train yourself to live in the present moment", so said a realized soul. I shook away the dovetailing thoughts and came back to reality. Not because I was reminded of the preacher's words, but because of a terrible honk that blared into my ear drums almost rupturing them. It was a clear sky, but a not so clear road. It was a bright sunny morning, but a dark gray smoky surrounding. And the cabbie I got was the kind you can only encounter in nightmares. He drove as if he was more keen to hit a traffic light, than to get me to office on time. Even a bicycle overtook us. He chose not to take a crucial flyover at Sion, because he 'forgot'. When I reprimanded him for the same, he took it upon himself to take all available flyovers. The result, he 'forgot' the section where he was supposed to go under a flyover and ended up going over it instead. Round 3. BONGGGGGGGGGGGGG. Frustrated with the chap and not wanting to go till the end of city limits hunting for a place to make a U-turn, I got off and decided to walk back a short - cut to office. So, with three kilos on my shoulder, and a hundred kilos of irritation, I trudged along. Round 4. BONGGGGGGGG.

I got to work, and all hell broke loose. I had drafted a meticulous plan of action for my team this week, and suddenly, I was told that almost my whole team had been whisked off out of Mumbai on an urgent project. But my project, my deadlines? 'You figure it out'. Round 5, 6 and 7. An extra loud BONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. Eight people had eight hundred questions to ask me. I had eight thousand questions to ask, with the first question being, "who do I ask the Seven Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety Nine questions to?" A client wanted a report. I needed 3 reports from my team. Two guys in Bangalore called to say that they wouldn't be able to send some crucial data since they had been called off to a very important meeting. My colleague in Chennai who was to send me 2 very important reports called to say that he was on leave since he had a stomach upset. My tea was cold. I was asked to go to another corner of the city in 3 hours. Wait. Someone would confirm whether I'd need to go. A member of my team (only one of the remaining two who were spared the critically urgent out of Mumbai project), came over to say that she was supposed to go on a one-day meeting somewhere. Gongs were going off. Round 8, 9, 100, 1000. And amidst this cacophony, someone said, "Sindhu lunch?" I headed out, and greedily took a spoonful of the vegetable I'd brought. Youchhhhhh. I ended up like a leaky faucet. Lunch was ruined as well. Round 10,003. BONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.

Lost in the labyrinthine ways of the day, I finally looked at my watch. 7:45 pm. The office was almost empty. The working day was finally over. The manic Monday was finally done. A colleague was leaving and he asked me how long it'd take me to get home. In a buoyant mood on account of finally having conquered the Monday, I nonchalantly replied - 20 minutes. "Wow! that's truly lucky. It takes me nothing less than an hour to get home!", he mused. I smiled, shrugged, packed up and left. God damn the roads of Mumbai. They build flyovers everywhere. 'A small sacrifice for a better tomorrow', they say. Tomorrow? Well, the vehicles line up on top and below the flyover. For Mumbaikars, the song we sing is,

'The Road is not enough.
But it is such a perfect place to waste my time.
The Road is not enough.
Flyovers're such a perfect way to spend my evening.
The Road is not enough.... The Road is not enough....'
(To be sung along the tune of The world is not enough).

So a small move by the cab was a prelude to a large wait in the traffic jam. So inch by inch, I managed to reach home. In not 20 minutes, but in 120 minutes. Whoopa. Gongs kept clanging like temple bells. Round 2,00,003, I guess. I lost count. I lost the power to count. I finished dinner and I so wanted to get myself out of my sad, dejected, melancholy mood. I so wanted to spend half an hour by the seaside, listening to the soothing waves with the cool, gentle, salty sea breeze brush against my face. So I asked my father whether I could just drive down to Worli Sea Face and be back within the hour. Unflinchingly, he gave me an emphatic No. 'You must be insane to expect me to say yes to you driving at this hour,' he jeered. This was the loudest BONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG in ages. Sad, dejected and rejected, I walked off to my room. Mom said, " Read your Bible, and go to sleep. Tomorrow will be a better day". So I took her advice and soon after finishing this post, I am off to my 'Biblical jaunt'..... Jason Bourne beckons...... For the sixth time.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Yes, I lived through a piece of history being made...

Yes, I lived through a piece of history being created. I lived at a time when America was led by a Black President. The campaign is over, the race is over, the verdict is out and the dust has settled. And only now, is the effect beginning to sink in, in the world. Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States of America, and he has won the race to the White House. And how! 349 to McCain's 169, while 270 is all that was needed. George W Bush won his two terms by 271 and 286 respectively! But why is all this such a big deal?

Well, America, as a nation has been a nation that has forever been a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. For that matter, the whole of the North American continent is that way, but the variegation is a lot more in the USA. Beginning from the times of mass migration of slaves from Europe to free land in the 'newly discovered land' to the never ceasing immigration of people from different countries, America has always been one to encourage 'results for hard work'. Hence the name, 'Land of Opportunities'. But all has never been hunky dory with this land. From Martin Luther King to Rodney King the history of African Americans has been one of struggle against prejudices and injustices. Take the more recent hit of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans. African Americans had been left high and dry to literally be 'blown away'. As if no one ever cared. Emancipation although attributed to Abe Lincoln, honestly never truly happened. So while the whites made their millions on Wall Street, a silent community of Blacks wilted away in Harlem, taking to crime, as a means to vent out their frustrations. And now, when the American people have actually voted to be led by a man who is from a racial minority, the African American community somehow feels vindicated. As if their throats have somehow found a voice.

There is this whole talk of the American people pushing aside their prejudices to go all out and vote for Obama, that the people have finally decided to 'move on' and take off the tag of being a country where racism, although not explicit, lies in the undercurrent somewhere. But is that the real full story? First of all, in the popular vote, the win has been comparatively marginal. 52.3% to McCain's 46.4%. Secondly, he has swung just around 6 traditionally Republican states his way, while holding on to the Democrat stronghold states. So, while the electoral college system has ensured the large margin, the popular vote numbers do not really reflect a tremendous change in ideology! Granted, had America still been as racially prejudiced as they were around 200 years ago, McCain would have had a landslide victory. But the current socio-poloitical milieu and the bleakness of the future under a repeat Republican administration definitely tilted the scales in Obama's favor.

But there are a few strategic points that truly have made this campaign and race special. First - the heavy anti-incumbency factor brought on by the Bush Administration, thanks to numerous terrible calls by the World's most powerful country. Secondly, the appeal and the reaching out of the Obama campaign all the way to the grass roots, by harnessing the internet through social networking sites, emails and SMSes and making every single American truly 'involved' in the Presidential election. Thirdly the massive turn out of first time voters who decided that it was time they stepped up and pushed aside the status quo of the past by exercising their vote tilted the numbers precipitously in Obama’s favor. The truly informed, thinking population came forth and decided to make a difference and they did! Finally a few blunders by the Rep campaign seemed to scuttle the Republican ship almost completely, the Running Mate pick being one of them. So, yet again, the milieu, the opponent's failings and a very well orchestrated campaign, managed to win the game, fair and square for Obama.

Now, what next? A rather famous Bushism goes that when President Bush was asked how the White House was, he had replied, "It's White"! Racially speaking, that is no longer the case. But now, the people have chosen change and it is up to the new President to effect the change. The party is over and the gravity of the problem stares at America like a deep open gorge. A terrible economy that has actually initiated a wave of plummeting economies across the world, 2 wars that are dangling precariously at a precipice, internal economic divides and the usual security challenges across the world that need to be addressed. The World was watching the election with its eyes wide open, and they're going to continue to see whether the change is not just a change in the way a race is won / has won.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A crooked look at the new cloning miracle.....

Japanese have just managed to clone cryogenically preserved species of dead rats! This could be a giant step in genetics, since so far we have only managed to clone living species, right from Dolly the sheep. This whole field of genetics and DNA studies is again a key field of our times.Not just in science but in countless books and movies over the years. Jurassic Park, Chromosome 6, The Sixth Day, imagination has been fraught with grotesque projections of the flipside of meddling with nature.

So, how can we imagine a world of the future? Evolution crossed with species of the past? Neo - humans along with dinosaurs? A cross between 'Planet of the Apes' and 'Jurassic Park'? Well, for a city like Mumbai, or for that matter any megalopolis, it is a picture fraught with despair. We are unable to drive on roads on account of the potholes, and huge construction activities happening on Indian roads. With an imminent 'poor man's car - the Nano', the bleak just got bleaker. As if the small car phenomenon instituted in India by the Japs was not enough, now we are going to have mammoths, dinosaurs and dodos on Indian roads - thanks to the Japs again. Dodos are already present in the form of Indian drivers, but we'd probably get to see the maestro of stupidity - the real dodo. So, a giant leap forward for mankind in genetics that has been taken by creating species that could have been seen had we taken a giant leap backward in evolution, could leave us with space not even enough to take an inch step in any direction on Indian roads......

All this humor apart - Let's take a moment to pay respects to the man who immortalized dinosaurs for our generation - Michael Crichton - one of my favorite and I guess one of the best authors of science fiction - who passed away yesterday. My respects to a man who gladdened a world......

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A hilarious look at the campaign that was.............

As we step into the final few hours of the US Presidential race 2008, here are a few hilarious moments of the campaign that was.....

Terrible economy, huge losses in wars, racial and sexist prejudices, swing states, undecided people, experience, divas, Obamican (a Long time Republican voting for Obama), Muslim, Socialist... a very variegated race, but one thing that has been invariant, is the humor..... Here are unquotable quotes by the hopefuls - McCain, Palin, Obama, Biden and Hillary Clinton.

John McCain

"I was looking at the Sturgis schedule, and noticed that you had a beauty pageant, so I encouraged Cindy to compete. I told her [that] with a little luck, she could be the only woman to serve as both the First Lady and Miss Buffalo Chip." --on the annual Miss Buffalo Chip Pageant, which features topless (and occasionally bottomless) contestants, Sturgis, South Dakota, Aug. 4, 2008

"Across this country this is the agenda I have set before my fellow prisoners. And the same standards of clarity and candor must now be applied to my opponent." --Bethlehem, Penn., Oct. 8, 2008

"You know, I think you may have noticed that Senator Obama's supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately. And you know, I couldn't agree with them more. I couldn't disagree with you. I couldn't agree with you more than the fact that Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most god-loving, most, most patriotic part of America, and this is a great part of the country." --Moon Township, Penn., Oct. 21, 2008 - I was reminded of the legendary answer in the 1994 Miss USA pageant - Question: If you could live forever, would you and why? Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever,"
- Miss Alabama.

"Our economy, I think, is still -- the fundamentals of our economy are strong." --Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 15, 2008

"You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." --breaking into song after being asked at a VFW meeting about whether it was time to send a message to Iran, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, April 18, 2007

"There was an energy bill on the floor of the Senate loaded down with goodies, billions for the oil companies, and it was sponsored by Bush and Cheney. You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one." --referring to Barack Obama during the second presidential debate, Nashville, Tennessee, Oct. 7, 2008

"I think -- I'll have my staff get to you. It's condominiums where -- I'll have them get to you." --after being asked how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own, interview with Politico, Las Cruces, N.M., Aug. 20, 2008

"Make it a hundred...That would be fine with me." --to a questioner who asked if he supported President Bush's vision for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for 50 years, Derry, New Hampshire, Jan. 3, 2008

"The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public's trust. If I were president today, I would fire him." --apparently unaware of the fact that the SEC chairman, as a commissioner of an independent regulatory commission, cannot be removed by the president, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sept. 18, 2008

"I understand the economy. I was chairman of the Commerce Committee that oversights every part of our economy." --ignoring the fact that it is actually the Senate Banking Committee which is responsible for credit, financial services, and housing -- the very areas currently in crisis, CNBC interview, Sept. 16, 2008

"I might have to rely on a vice president that I select’ for expertise on economic issues." --GOP debate, Nov. 28, 2007

"The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got Greenspan's book." --as quoted in the Boston Globe, Dec. 17, 2007

"Sure. Technically, I don't know." --asked if the U.S. is in a recession, "60 Minutes" interview, Sept. 21, 2008

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin boasted about her foreign policy experience to Katie Couric by saying, "As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where– where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border."

"They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." --Sarah Palin, on her foreign policy insights into Russia, ABC News interview, Sept. 11, 2008

"We realize that more and more Americans are starting to see the light there and understand the contrast. And we talk a lot about, OK, we’re confident that we’re going to win on Tuesday, so from there, the first 100 days, how are we going to kick in the plan that will get this economy back on the right track and really shore up the strategies that we need over in Iraq and Iran to win these wars?" --Sarah Palin, suggesting we are at war with Iran, FOX News interview, Nov. 1, 2008

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media." --Sarah Palin, getting first amendment rights backwards while claiming that criticism of her is unconstitutional, radio interview with WMAL-AM, Oct. 31, 2008

"[T]hey're in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom." --Sarah Palin, getting the vice president's constitutional role wrong after being asked by a third grader what the vice president does, interview with NBC affiliate KUSA in Colorado, Oct. 21, 2008

"We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. ...We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation." --Sarah Palin, speaking at a fundraiser in Greensoboro, N.C., Oct. 16, 2008

"I would hope at least that those protesters have the courage and the honor of thanking our veterans for giving them the right to protest!" --Sarah Palin, confusing supporters at a campaign rally who had shouted "We can't hear you!" and "Louder!", Richmond, Va., Oct. 13, 2008

"That's exactly what we're going to do in a Palin and McCain administration." --Sarah Palin, elevating herself to the top of the ticket, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sept. 18, 2008

"I'm very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing ... any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that." --Sarah Palin, after an Alaska legislative report found she had broken the state's ethics law and abused her power in the Troopergate scandal, conference call with Alaska reporters, Oct. 12, 2008

"They are also building schools for the Afghan children so that there is hope and opportunity in our neighboring country of Afghanistan." --Sarah Palin, speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Oct. 5, 2008

"All of 'em, any of 'em that have been in front of me over all these years." --Sarah Palin, unable to name a single newspaper or magazine she reads, interview with Katie Couric, CBS News, Oct. 1, 2008

"Nucular." --Sarah Palin, mispronouncing the word "nuclear" twice, ABC News interview, Sept. 11, 2008

"Perhaps so." --Sarah Palin, when asked if we may need to go to war with Russia because of the Georgia crisis, ABC News interview, Sept. 11, 2008

"I have not, and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you." --Sarah Palin, after being asked if she had never met a foreign head of state, despite the fact that every vice president in the last 32 years had met a foreign head of state prior to taking office, ABC News interview, Sept. 11, 2008

"I told the Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that Bridge to Nowhere." --Sarah Palin, who was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.

"As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?" --Sarah Palin, interview with CNBC's "Kudlow & Co", July 2008

"I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you." --Sarah Palin, asked by Katie Couric to cite specific examples of how John McCain has pushed for more regulation in his 26 years in the Senate, CBS News interview, Sept. 24, 2008

Barack Obama

"Let me introduce to you the next President -- the next Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden." --slipping up while introducing Joe Biden at their first joint campaign rally, Springfield, Illinois, Aug. 23, 2008

"Let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel's. It will be a strong friend of Israel's under a McCain...administration. It will be a strong friend of Israel's under an Obama administration. So that policy is not going to change." --Amman, Jordan, July 22, 2008

"How's it going, Sunshine?" --campaigning in Sunrise, Florida

"On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong."

"I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go." --at a campaign event in Beaverton, Oregon

"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." --explaining his troubles winning over some working-class voters

"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died -- an entire town destroyed." --on a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people

Joe Biden

"Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs." --Joe Biden

"A man I'm proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next President of the United States — Barack America!" --Joe Biden, at his first campaign rally with Barack Obama

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened." –Joe Biden, apparently unaware that FDR wasn't president when the stock market crashed in 1929 and that only experimental TV sets were in use at that time

"Stand up, Chuck, let 'em see ya." –-Joe Biden, to Missouri state Sen. Chuck Graham, who is in a wheelchair, Columbia, Missouri, Sept. 12, 2008


Clinton's Bosnia Adventure

The number one biggest gaffe of the 2008 Presidential election was Hillary Clinton's dramatic exaggeration of her landing in Bosnia in 1996, "under sniper fire." Was it an attempt to bolster her "experience" claim? Or was it a legitimate "misstatement"? We may never know for sure, but the video of the actual event sure did contradict much of her very descriptive story.

Clinton refers to RFK

'My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it,' she said, dismissing calls to drop out."

The American Presidential Election 2008 - My take on the story so far...

The American Presidential race. Well, just googling it up will yield a whole cartload of information. I could write for hours and hours on the way the whole thing has shaped up so far.

But there are a few reasons why this race for Presidency is unique.

First of all, the race comes at a time when America is in dire need of a shot in the arm to extricate itself from a recession that is ominously compared time and again to the Great Depression. People are tired of the so called aimless Government of George W Bush. Bush’s welcome party included a hit on WTC and the American perception of safety was dealt a literal bolt from the blue. During his tenure, a war was declared on Iraq and Afghanistan, a number of American youth were sent to war and Saddam was executed.

Traditionally, the Republicans have been more ‘ideological’, with ideology winning over fact, winning over science, winning over truth even – as told to me by some friends in the USA. True – as the firm belief that Iraq was out to destroy America, led to the fabrication of the whole concept of Weapons of Mass Destruction – ideology over truth! In 2004, President Bush managed to win the race by hitching on to ‘the WMD, war on Iraq, imminent terror strike’ horse. But, the absence of WMD, a fact which in effect falsified the whole reason why the war was started in the first place, and the futile loss of American lives in the flawed war coupled with a lack of a clear direction on whether the troops would be pulled out in an attempt to put an end to the continuous loss of life on Iraqi soil, have further resulted in despair among the American people. To add on to it, the Bush administration took their ideology of ‘free hand to business’ a bit too far, thereby leading to a situation of complete turmoil in the American economy. Lax laws to control banking and finance, a free hand to investment banks like Lehman, the darlings of the American Economy, complicated investment instruments, and a very strong hankering behind the bottom line, have all just seemed to ruin Bush’s farewell party as well. So much so, that people resent anything ‘Bush’. The fact that a Republican administration has been responsible for the breakdown of the economy and has been the cause of the maligned image of America in the eyes of the world has built up a strong anti-incumbency factor that McCain has had to make a very strong effort to try to distance himself from the current President and his policies.

The Democrats have traditionally been ‘for government regulation’. So they have so long been touting the fact that better regulation could have averted the whole economic meltdown. Which is true to an extent. They have also been speaking about moving out of Iraq. In a way they have put all their words in the right place, and have essentially spoken what America wanted to hear. Whether these factors can translate into a Democratic leadership at the White house, only today’s result can tell. Again, whether the new President can actually effect sufficient change to resurrect the flagging economy - only time will tell. So much for the socio-political milieu where this election is being held!

Now for the whole race in itself. Prominently, this race had more to do with a kind of ‘American awakening’, as the Democrats dared the people to challenge their prejudices. Both the Democrat candidates signified that at least one of America’s deep rooted prejudices would need to be challenged. America would need to vote either for an African American man or for a woman, if they decided to side with the Democrats. Imagine the quandary – to escape from a probable continuation of ‘terrible’ governance, they would need to fight their prejudices. They need to choose between a racial prejudice and a sexist prejudice to escape the status quo! Frying pan to the fire indeed.

This is just ideological. Look at the actual candidates.

The Republicans all along supported McCain. The Democrats were busy fighting prejudices. So while McCain began building a strong base, Obama and Hillary locked horns on who was better. It was almost as if they were the two presidential candidates fighting for the White House. Finally, whether it was on account of core issues or because one prejudice was more deep-rooted than another, Hillary quietly moved into the shadows. I remember once that Oprah Winfrey was slammed by numerous women for being vocal about her support for Obama as against Hillary, since many women took this as an affront to feminism! Whoa!!!

The candidates themselves. A 72 year old a war veteran – a PoW for five and a half years v/s a comparatively very young man who is said to be inexperienced. Both of them want to be the harbingers of change. On the charisma department, Barack certainly scores. He knows how to speak, how to connect his racial background to change, how to connect everyone by a common story. What he says, more often than not, sounds like a welcome change America needs. On the other hand, a rather resigned face of the Republicans is forced to contend with comments like ‘Obama is a Muslim’, ‘Obama is socialist’. ‘That One’ and so on. Verbal bandies, more like our very own Indian politicos!

Then come the Vice-Presidential candidates. Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. The vice president is generally someone with capacity to be President, if the situation so demands. But Ms. Palin! She still thinks that the VP heads the Senate!! Her take on foreign policy is legendary – she can see Putin fly over her house! She can’t name a newspaper she reads, or a Supreme Court judgment she disagreed with other than Roe vs Wade, or a policy decision McCain voted for! Joe Biden, not a lot is spoken about him generally. At least not in the global media, but that is perhaps because he is outshone by Diva Palin for all the wrong reasons.

Even the way in which the campaign has been conducted is different. While McCain depended on the age old Public Campaign Finance mechanism for funds, by drawing on Federal funds for his campaign, Obama, worked outside the system – from the grassroots level. Small donations by small time people who will not expect the typical huge favors for the money paid, ended up collecting into a huge ocean of resources. The result – McCain had $84 million dollars, at his disposal, while Obama managed around $150 million in September alone. So Obama could manage to get prime time slots for $4 million dollars one week prior to election day, while McCain appealed to his supporters to please help him out! Does all this really matter? Well, for a candidate who is trying to be America’s first President with African roots that extend all the way to the color of his skin, yes. The more he appears, the more he tries to break the intangible screen that lies at the heart of the racial divide, the better it is. The more confidence in his manner of operation, he can instill into the ‘America = White Republican’ population, the better it is for his chances. The fact remains that if only Obama were white, he would have won hands down. But the whole quandary of administration and the country’s future on one hand v/s racial prejudice on the other, has added a lot of spice to the American Presidential Race of 2008.

But can America really put aside age old beliefs and look to the future? Can they really allow logic to prevail and not be swayed by prejudices when they are all alone in that polling booth with an all important choice to make? Can they really think and take a wise decision for the country? I guess we’d need to wait a few more hours to see how America decides…..

Monday, November 03, 2008

Speaking of Presidents.............

This happens to be one of my all time favorite forwards.

An Interesting Conversation
An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty. He asks one of his new students to stand and.....

Prof : So you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.

Prof: Is God good?
Student: Sure.

Prof: Is God all-powerful?
Student: Yes.

Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn't. How is this God good then? Hmm?
Student is silent.

Prof: You can't answer, can you?
Let's start again, young fellow. Is God good?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Is Satan good?
Student: No.

Prof: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From...God...

Prof: That's right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student: Yes.

Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes.

Prof: So who created evil?
Student does not answer.

Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they?
Student: Yes, sir.

Prof: So, who created them?
Student has no answer.

Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son...Have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.

Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No, sir.

Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't.

Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes.

Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Prof: Yes Faith. And that is the problem science has.

Now the student said can I ask something to you Professor.

Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Prof: Yes.

Student : And is there such a thing as cold?
Prof: Yes.

Student: No sir. There isn't.

(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don't have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Prof: Yes. What is night if there isn't darkness?

Student: You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something.
You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light... But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn't it? In reality, darkness isn't. If it were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?
Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class is in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?

(The class breaks out into laughter.)

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir... The link between man & god is FAITH. That is all that keeps things moving & alive. .


This is a true story, and the student was none other than

DR. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The whole world is talking of Presidents. This student is India's ex - President. When America goes to the polls today, they will be elcting a new person to enter the White House and make Dubyaman, America's ex-President.....

F1 World Championship 2008 - A victory for Hamilton, but a loss for sport

The Brazilian GP 2008, - a story of a wheel of fortune that turned at 30,000 rpm! We all know how the race shaped up. Massa on Pole, Hamilton fourth. Hamilton needed to finish not lower than fifth. As it turned out, through a whole series of ups and downs that left the viewers at the edge of their seats, although Massa ended up winning the battle, he lost the war.

The race was beautiful, but in a tactical race, that saw Ferrari plan and work their race to perfection, a flawed strategy of Toyota, lost Massa his championship. I don’t know how much to read into this, but how could a strategy fail you in the last quarter of the last lap? When Massa had already crossed the chequered flag, cameras zoomed in on the Ferrari pit crew and showed them up in celebration. They also showed the McLaren crew celebrating and I felt pained thinking about the poor Brazilian. His home Grand Prix, more victories this season than Hamilton, his first dash at a championship that he has fought long and hard – a lot was at stake. Last year, Massa was a strong contender for the championship, and he showed that even without Michael, Ferrari could look good! Conspiracy theories can abound. Whether Glock voluntarily stepped off the gas, or

whether there really was a problem, no one will know, since FIA can intervene only in case of team orders. Glock was not McLaren, he wasn’t even Brit. Then why? And why favor Hamilton and not Massa? It just seems very unfortunate, because Massa did all he could. He qualified right, he drove a perfect race, he won the maximum races this season, then why?

As a Ferrari fan, I would have been happier if Massa had won, but honestly, gone are the days when a championship was pocketed around the 10th or the 11th race of the season. That charm and magic ended with the Michael Schumacher – Jean todt – Ross Brawn – Ferrari era. Ardent Schumi critics would vociferously claim that today’s championship battles look better, they are fought better and they engross the viewer. Granted, you like watching every race, since you want to see what happens next. But what happened to strategy, where one would try to grab the championship with both hands, when there is still a lot of time to spare? Whatever happened to creating a sporting stalwart? Alonso – 2 time champion, tipped to be the next best thing since MSC, faded away last year. Kimi – 2007 champ, faded away this year, in spite of a sterling Ferrari. This time, the champion was Hamilton. Next time, who knows? Vettel perhaps! If Hamilton had, in an exhibition of sterling driving, overtaken Vettel on the start-finish straight, or pulled some perfect maneuver that left Vettel wondering what just slingshot past him, I guess the championship win would have been well-deserved for Hamilton. But winning because someone handed it down to you because of whatever reason, at least to me, seems similar to winning through team orders. A damp squib victory indeed. Certainly not stuff great champion stalwarts are made of.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

What is with Gtalk tag lines???

Gtalk tag lines. They end up being a means to tell the world what's on your mind. Noble enough. So you say, " Ram Kapoor in Nigeria" - makes sense. You perhaps want to avoid phone calls while on international roaming. You say, " Ram Kapoor in USA" - makes sense too. You want to collate your shopping list soon enough. You say, " Changed job!" - granted. You try to avoid getting bashed up by friends who during the next meeting greet you with the standard, " KA&**^#, Bola Bhi Nahin", routine. You say, "I am asleep", as your status shows away or idle, which is normal for everyone on chat in a place called 'anything but India', where internet and electricity are perhaps cheaper than water... especially if your company foots the bill. Another use is to add your site or blog link, which is also understood. Of what use is writing something if you aren't going to get anyone to read it??? But what I don't understand are

tag lines like - "I love my girlfriend very very much" or "My hubby is the best cook in the world" or "My hubby picks me up and drops me at work every day" or "I can't wait to be Mrs. Dholakia".... Jeeeeeeeeez... Dudes and babes, I don't really think the world is remotely interested in knowing your romantic bent of mind. Then again, you have the tag lines like " Oh yes, Aarti, you were so right" Now I am not Aarti, I don't know Aarti, so what if she is right????? It's like saying "Raj, please call the grocer and order a litre of milk" on 20 hoardings on an Expressway!!!!

No matter what the motivations, the phenomenon never ceases to make me laugh. Now my tag line is going to be "I know Vidya for 2 years......"