India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

India Uncut Nugget 21

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.
Milton Friedman, quoted here, via Cafe Hayek.

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 7:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Agni, Akash, Bijli, Jal and Baaz

The five cyclones to be named so far by the Indian Meteorological Department.

The fourth makes me shiver. Yazad is a fierce young man.
amit varma, 7:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

40,000 soon-to-be-homeless people

One of them, Kusum Rohra, has some questions.
amit varma, 7:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Manmohan Singh talks the talk...

... after months of not walking the walk. Are we to again be hopeful?
amit varma, 6:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sachin Tendulkar's wrist-cock

Do read this excellent analysis of the way Sachin Tendulkar grips the bat, and the subtle ways in which that has changed over time. Some fine observations in there by Dileepan Narayanan.
amit varma, 3:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A ceremonial survey?

Prabhu wonders why Abdul Kalam needs to do an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas of Tamil Nadu. What practical purpose will it serve?

Good question.
amit varma, 2:40 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Moo sky gets milked

Aadisht points me to this excellent poem by Mukta Raut. Cowmendable.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26.
amit varma, 2:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Driving over plastic

Two problems: Plastic bags and crumbling roads.

One solution.

(Link via Arzan.)
amit varma, 12:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

There are cars and TVs in Sangam Vihar

But there's also "inadequate water and pathetic housing."

Naveen Mandava explains why this is so in his post, "The next business opportunity!"
amit varma, 12:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A VIP's passport

The headline says it all:

"Copter sent to fetch Punjab FM’s passport, costs taxpayer Rs 2 lakh."

Such joy.

(Link via email from Harpartap Mann, who sent it in the context of this post.)
amit varma, 12:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bad joke about Delhi bloggers

Q. What's the difference between Jai Arjun Singh and Saket Vaidya.

Ans. Jai lives in Saket but Saket doesn't live in Jai.

amit varma, 12:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Different Strokes

I kicked off a group blog yesterday on Cricinfo called Different Strokes, written by a group of cricket enthusiasts who don't write about the game professionally, but write about it damn well. Here's my introduction of it, and here are the first two posts, by Zainub Razvi and Arun Kumar. I hope you enjoy it.
amit varma, 10:37 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Marquez, Rushdie, Updike, Theroux and ...

... Tarun Tejpal.

Just some of the nominees for this year's "Bad Sex in Fiction" award. I'm sure Mr Tejpal has long dreamed of being on a shortlist with these gents, though I'm equally sure that it wouldn't have been this one. It will be fun if he wins. Indians have always been good at bad sex, and a little validation would be nice.

(Link via email from Shivam.)
amit varma, 6:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Aapne dekha?"

Chandrahas Choudhury, back from his travels, presents "Seven views of Puri."
amit varma, 6:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Beauty and brains

I could swear Vishy Anand is sleeping in this picture.

(Pic via this NY Times article on efforts to bring glamour into chess. Heh.)
amit varma, 3:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

India Uncut Nugget 20

We were lucky enough to get our first home computer in 1978. It was huge, and it cost a lot of money, and we couldn't afford to eat well after that. I always liked computers because I thought you could a lot with them.
Larry Page, quoted in "The Google Story" by David Vise.

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 2:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Taking taxpayers on a luxurious ride

Soniya Tripathi of the Indian Express reports on how the Deccan Odyssey, with 21 luxurious coaches and a staff of 50, including "beauticians, health instructors, attendants and a chef," has just three passengers for its latest trip. Apparently the train "can accommodate 96 people with two restaurants, a conference hall, two health clubs, four deluxe suites and residential rooms."

We are also told that the train has never run at full capacity, and often there are just a handful of passengers.

Isn't the solution obvious? Price it lower, and if increasing volumes don't make up for costs, shut the damn thing down. That's exactly what would have happened if some private company ran it, instead of the government, which couldn't care less about the bottomline. After all, we pay the bills.
amit varma, 1:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Hindu gets 'inspired'

Consider this paragraph:
Stone has always made stories about men for whom ordinary life is impossible by accident or by choice. As a storyteller he has long made a habit out of extreme personalities, a preoccupation that during the 1990s was matched by one of the most playfully expressive styles in American mainstream pictures.
Well, it appears in Gautaman Bhaskaran's review of the film Alexander, published Feb 11, 2005. It also appears in Manohla Dargis's review in the New York Times, published November 24, 2004. It's evident who has plagiarised from whom.

I got this information via an excellent expose by Nina from Chennai, in which she also provides many other links that reveal that Gautaman Bhaskaran has been doing this for a long, long time. (Link to Nina via email from Mridula.) Somewhat like what Nikhat Kazmi, another MSM film reviewer, had been doing when Jai Arjun Singh exposed her.

In that case, the Times of India took no action against Kazmi. In this case, one can argue that the Hindu wasn't aware of this until now. Well, let us see what they do.

Cross-posted on We The Media.

Update: Ravi Ratlami has another expose here.
amit varma, 1:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Just one rupee

That's all it takes to make a difference to people's lives. If you think that's not too much, do read more here.
amit varma, 1:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, November 28, 2005

Another sunrise industry

I had linked a few weeks back to an excellent Subir Gokarn piece in which he had mentioned that the biggest sunrise industries were those that competed against the government, and made up for government deficiencies. Well, there's an excellent illustration of how government inadequacy can fuel private enterprise in this Reuters report:
Albanians are so sick of police doing nothing about the theft and hijacking of luxury cars that they've taken to setting up their own informal networks of hot-lines and roadblocks.

When a big new Mercedes was stolen at gunpoint earlier this month from a Tirana parking lot, the lot owner immediately called in his friends from the capital and around the country instead of dialing the local police precinct.

Using mobile phones, three cars homed in on the late-model limousine from different directions while an unofficial road block was set up near the northern town of Lezhe.
And the car was recovered. Of course, this was just an informal network, but it is easy to see a business flourishing in this vacuum created by the incompetence of the police. As, indeed, in so many other areas. So if you're a budding entrepreneur, in Albania or India, you know where to look for opportunities.
amit varma, 6:40 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A cycle and a bullock cart

The vehicles that transported India's first two rockets to the Thumba Equatorial Launching Station more than four decades ago. Read more here.
amit varma, 6:30 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Popular? Profitable? Eeks!

Ashok Mitra thinks that it is a bad thing that cricket has become a spectator sport. Heh.
amit varma, 5:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bad economics can kill

In an excellent Op-Ed in the Indian Express titled "Who killed Manjunath?" Ila Patnaik writes:
It is well understood that the structure of economic incentives is a far stronger force than policing. It is easy to blame the law and order situation for the murder. But the real blame lies with the petroleum price policy that created incentives for adulteration. When diesel costs Rs 35 per litre and kerosene is available in PDS shops for Rs 11 per litre, there is a very powerful incentive for petrol pump owners to adulterate diesel with kerosene. If a mafia has arisen, it is a creation of government policy. In the same way that the smuggler gangs of the 70s were the inevitable consequence of restrictions on imports, the mafia that murdered S. Manjunath is the by-product of the pricing distortions in the petroleum sector.
Dead right. And here's a question for my readers: can you give other examples of similarly bad economic policy in India, and prescriptions for how to fix them?

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog, where comments are open.

Update: Ravikiran Rao poses another question.
amit varma, 5:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

There's a solution for everything

Best headline ever:

Tired of commuting, 4 teachers marry driver.

PS: On reading the article, as opposed to just the headline, I realise that I should have curtailed my amusement. The five people concerned all seem to have weighed up the costs and benefits of their actions and made utterly rational decisions. Viewed in context, it isn't funny at all, but sensible.

And here's a question that strikes me: do you believe polygamy is wrong? If all the parties concerned enter a polygamous arrangement of their own free will, hurting no one else in the process, why would you say it's wrong?
amit varma, 4:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Fighting potholes

Amar Bose has an excellent solution to a problem that is painfully and bumpily common in India. Good stuff -- though the solution that would make me happiest is better roads, not better cars.

(Link via email from Nitin.)
amit varma, 3:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Give your fingers a break

Don't click.

(Link via email from Sibin.)
amit varma, 2:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Non-pompous quote of the day

Saif Ali Khan is quoted as saying, by the Times of India:
I don't mean to sound pompous but I can confidently tell you that no one in this film industry can pretend to play the guitar on stage and be a rock star better than me. That's because I know the nuances involved with that performance, like tuning while playing. This is something only someone who knows the instrument will do. That lends so much credibility.
Indeed. Context? Saif will give "his maiden guitar performance in the Capital" next month. With Parikrama for company. Such fun.

(Link via email from Nikhil.)
amit varma, 12:31 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday reading...

... for many Sundays. Books of the year from the Observer and the New York Times.
amit varma, 9:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Self service

Even when it comes to marriage, some think.

(Link via email from Vibhu.)
amit varma, 9:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Blood-sucking beasts

The New York Times reports:
They're the scourge of hobo encampments and hot-sheet motels. To impressionable children everywhere, they're a snippet of nursery rhyme, an abstract foe lurking beneath the covers that emerges when mommy shuts the door at night.
And now these "blood-sucking beasts," whose kind I have battled myself in my valiant student days, are in Park Avenue, and are "spreading through New York City like a swarm of locusts on a lush field of wheat."

There's a film in this somewhere, but meanwhile, you can read about it here.
amit varma, 8:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"All-round outstanding performance"

Shah Rukh Khan at St Columba's in 1984.

You can't ham much while playing cricket, I suppose.
amit varma, 8:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

If Varun Gandhi can join the BJP...

... why can't Raj Thackeray join the Congress?

Sadly, political parties in India are not about values or beliefs, but about political expediency. Why would anyone expect otherwise?
amit varma, 8:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mela, not Melee

Welcome to the Blog Mela. It's taken hours of hard work and brought immense pleasure to compile this list of fine posts from the week gone by, and I transfer only the pleasure to you. As usual, I've kept editorial comment to a minimum, and presented the posts category-wise. I hope you enjoy it!

Society: Hurree Babu tells us "How to spell 'Hypocritical.'" Manish Vij writes about the Asian invasion of America. Varun Singh reports on a suicide at IIT Mumbai, and then follows up with an update. Vivek Kumar also has a post on it. Hemangini Gupta tells us about "Shooting with Jeet and Mandar." Sooraj Ratnakumar writes about virginity and AIDS in India. Charukesi Ramadurai stresses that a rupee a day can make a big difference in people's lives.

Jaffna examines the role of women in Indian history. Selva writes about the Indian tendency to spit in public. Gawker points out how "[t]he Supreme Court of India vilifies rape victims." Amrit Hallan writes about India's "collective fatalism." Sonia Faleiro profiles Bobby Darling.

Politics and suchlike: Lijo Isac writes about elections in Kerala. Nitin Pai recommends a "pragmatic approach to relief and rehabilitation" in earthquake-affected Kashmir. Shivam Vij contemplates the Bihar elections. Arzan Sam Wadia finds reason for optimism in Indian politics. Reuben Abraham commends the BJP for taking a principled stand on the Khushboo issue. Sandeep shares a "few disjointed thoughts" on Lalu with us.

Culture: Jai Arjun Singh entertains us with some vignettes from a wedding. Alaphia Zoyab describes how "[t]he English language is a rich source of laughter when employed by those who do not speak it entirely well." Ravi Venkatesh tells us what is the most-used word in IIM Ahmedabad. Rashmi Bansal explains her reasoning behind the conclusion that "[w]e Indians are right up there when it comes to 'dumb.'" Primary Red predicts the death of blogging. Sakshi Juneja explains bhangra to us.

Business, Law and Economics: Naveen Mandava writes about how the Indian government is "trying to optimise government resources and not incentivise private resources" in the field of education. K explains why India will become "the next big MMORPG market." Ennis writes about "The economics of the Indian Wedding Industry." NS Ramnath has a few thoughts on corporate social responsibility. Abhishek Dey Das writes about the growth of medical tourism in India.

Raj at Plus Ultra explores the economics of a birthday party. Aseem Asthana discusses the retail sector in India and China. PrufrockTwo shares with us a bit of overheard marketing wisdom. Govar wonders, "So, what went wrong with brand India?" Reuben Abraham shares some numbers with us on India and China, over at the Indian Economy Blog. David Giacalone discusses a decision by the bar council of Punjab and Haryana to put a maximum age limit on entry to the profession. (Check out Blawg Review for more on law blogging.)

Music and films: Kaashyapeya finds music in a poem by Tennyson. Sunil L writes about the badshaah of cool: Feroz Khan. Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta writes on Milica and Zujka, some of the characters she liked in Emir Kusturica's Life is a Miracle. Samanth Subramanian reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So does The Duck. So does Aditya Kuber. So does Ramya Kannan. Nikhil Pahwa has mutiple reviews of the Jazz Utsav in Mumbai Delhi: 1, 2, 3. Megha Murthy writes about her Megha-Star. Karthik Narasimhan kicks off the Stochastica Sinema School Series. Lazy Geek reviews Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle.

Books: Amardeep Singh writes about a course on travel writers that he will be teaching in the spring. Anand of Locana reviews Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Memories of My Melancholy Whores". TA Abinandanan evaluates some of the output of Kizhakku Padhippagam, a Tamil publishing house run by Badri Seshadri and K Satyanarayan. Mandar Talvekar reviews Ursula Le Guin's "Tales from Earthsea." Ajay Bhat reviews The Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Gautam Ghosh checks out "They Just Don't Get It!" by Leslie Yerkes and Randy Martin. Ashutosh Joglekar finds Elie Wiesel's "Night" to be "one of the hardest and most gut wrenching books one can ever read." Falstaff writes about Carson McCullers's "Clock Without Hands," a "novel of delicious humour and tender irony, a book that combines searing, passionate outrage with a deep well-spring of compassion."

Creative Writing: Gamesmaster G9 reports on a celebrity deathmatch at Dum Dum Airport. Tridib Sen imagines a Bong Harry Potter. eM writes about post offices and letters and handwriting and her distinctive m's. Rajesh Advani conjures up an attack on a Durex factory in JN Nagar. Aditya Bidikar has a conversation with his muse.

Sports: Gaurav Sabnis is impressed to find Sourav Ganguly winning six Tests in six seconds. Kiruba Shankar writes about why half-marathons are a compromise. (I prefer 100m walks myself.) A mysterious gent named Haroun Kamal previews the upcoming India-SA ODI in Mumbai. Anirudh Garg writes about how to get cricket in the USA. Shruthi Rao writes about her first cricket match. Also, have you been following this discussion on Indian cricket at Wicket to Wicket, Cricinfo's blog?

Technology: Saket Vaidya reveals that he is an open-source zealot. Kingsley Jegan finds a problem with Google Base. Suman Kumar writes about how "[t]echnology is not all that cool" after all. Amit Agarwal compares Google Adsense and Yahoo Publisher Network. Anjali Puri blogs about her moody mobile phone. Arnab Nandi is disturbed by a PopSci article. Patrix has a message for Sony. Swaroop CH illustrates, with an incident from his college days, how open-source software is seen in India as "some kind of hobbyist thing in India." VeerChand Bothra discusses a plan to have a dictionary on mobile phones in India.

Places: Annie Zaidi writes about "a third-rate hotel in small town India." Vikrum Sequeira treats us to a few "vislumbres" of Calcutta. Neha Viswanathan describes how you "don't drink tea by cups in Delhi, you drink them by the conversations." Shoe Fiend cites the Maadavidhi market as an example of "how things you once abhorred become wonderful and romantic as your memories are tinged with sepia." Akshay of Trivial Matters celebrates Bandra "as the locals do."

Bridal Beer writes about how Delhi is "a celebration of suvival." Roshan Paul writes about how conservationists at Kaziranga are "paradoxically destroying the environment in order to preserve it." Niti Bhan writes about coming back to New Delhi after five years. Dina Mehta tells us how one of the things that struck her most during a recent trip to the US was a palpable sense of fear. JAP 1 presents "Images from a big country." Vikram Arumilli shows us Christmas in Berlin. Sujatha takes us on a journey through Prague. Mridula writes about "Going nomad in Ladakh."

Miscellaneous: Thalassa Mikra writes about the most fascinating subject ever: the human body. Ravikiran Rao reveals "The reverse Playboy excuse." Neelkantan B compares 24-hour pharmacy stores with forward short legs. Yazad Jal welcomes a new member into the infamous Libertarian Cartel. Anna of Sepia Mutiny is delighted, with good reason, that law-enforcement officers in India are finally beginning to get tough with poachers.

Anita Bora writes about the joy of photographing children. aNTi has a post up of which I understood just one word: "phone." But it's a nice word, so here, read. Saheli Datta has some fun at a wedding and a zoo: no, they were separate events. Thennavan makes a moving Thanksgiving post about all the bloggers he has known. Sagnik Nandy's dad finds out about his blog.

Veena, who will soon be "going around the country getting married," treats us to a Carl Sandburg poem. Peter Griffin celebrates, and with great reason, Samit Basu's blogroll. Kunal Sawardekar expresses his concern for samosas. Archster goes to a theme party dressed as a terrorist. Aekta encounters a rather nonchalant thief. Hari N writes about how "[h]abits make a man." Priya Sivan writes about turning 30.

Abhishek compares the Sunday supplements of Maharashtra Herald and the Sunday Times. Ali Potia writes about his encounter with bureaucracy. Sibin Mohan reveals the secrets of Beer Goggles. Gaurav Bhatnagar describes a KBC goof-up. Kaps of Sambhar Mafia explores the important question of where to get sambhar in China. Krishna Moorthy fantasises about the DesiPundit Slogan Contest.

I'd like to end this Blog Mela by directing you to Remembering Manjunath, a tribute site to the brave IOC official and IIM alumnus who died for his principles. And do read Gaurav Sabnis's powerful posts on his brave friend: "Bye, Machan" and "Please make it count!"

Previous Blog Melas hosted by me: 1, 2, 3, 4. The Blog Mela schedule is here. Do update your blogrolls now, this is the best time to do so. My update is long overdue, and I shall do it after I get some much-needed sleep.
amit varma, 9:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Smaller slice, bigger pie

Devangshu Datta explains, in his latest post in the ongoing discussion on Indian cricket at Wicket to Wicket, why cricket will continue to thrive in India. Good stuff.

There are, by and by, two new Cricinfo blogs starting next week, on Tuesday and Thursday. Watch out for them.
amit varma, 1:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Reagan or Roosevelt?

Stephen Moore writes in the Wall Street Journal about which of John McCain's heroes influence him more, and, crucially, what kind of economic policies he'll implement if he's America's next president. Despite McCain's opposition to big government spending and his support for free trade in general, Moore concludes:
Where some see the vast virtue of entrepreneurial wealth-generators and job-producers, he [McCain] too often sees "robber barons."
Hmm. Still, he'll be an improvement on the current incumbent. Sadly, that isn't saying much.
amit varma, 12:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Google at the border

Nikhil Pahwa points me to the story of an Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, whose name was Googled by officials at the American border, and who was denied entry after the officials read his blog. Hmmm.

I've just skimmed through Derakhshan's blog, and I can't imagine what they objected to in terms of content. He refers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president hated by the US government, as a "fundamentalist moron," and repeatedly expresses his support for the reform movement in Iran. Just the kind of blogger I would imagine the US should embrace, even if he is against some of their policies. Pity.

Update: Thalassa Mikra writes in:
I just checked the post on your blog regarding Hossein
Derakhshan being denied entry into the US after
officers read his blog. Actually Derakhshan was not
denied entry on the basis of the content of his blog,
and the issue seems to be a bit more complicated.

From what I gather, he's a Canadian citizen since
March 2005. However, he entered the US in Nov. 2004
using his then Iranian passport with a single-entry
visa that is issued to Iranian citizens. Which means
that you get a new visa every time you leave the
country and try to re-enter. However, when Derakhshan
tries to re-enter, he uses his Canadian passport and
tries to get visa-on-arrival. Confusing, right? Also,
he did not surrender his I-94 and declare his visa
status when crossing into Canada (Americans don't need
a visa to enter Canada, so checks are highly

The only information in his blog that got him in
trouble was his assertion that he was a New York
resident, whereas his Canadian passport presumably
showed Toronto. Obviously his political views were not
the bone of contention here.
The posts she got this information from: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

I took the opportunity to ask her why she calls herself "Thalassa Mikra," which has a rather sonorous feel to it. Apparently, it's a Greek term. What does it mean? Well, let me give you a crypticky clue: "Stuart precedes Banville's latest." Go figure. (Or go Google!)
amit varma, 11:56 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bad shot selection

From Greg Chappell, that is.

I admire the man and what little I know of his coaching methods, but a coach of the national team should behave with more dignity. When the going is good, things like this won't matter, but when the side goes through a bad patch, as all teams inevitably do, it will be held against Chappell. Pity.

I'd love to be there the next time when Chappell and Sourav Ganguly find themselves in the same room. Chappell should show him the finger, and Ganguly should take off his shirt. Such fun.
amit varma, 11:18 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mistake? Yes, ok. Apology? No

The Indian Express has carried a "clarification" today with regard to what they had done yesterday. The clarification, which I couldn't find online, states:
Some of the comments carried yesterday were sent to us by Manjunathan's IIM batchmates. These comments were originally posted on a blog. All of today's letters come directly to The Indian Express. If you want to share your thoughts with us ... [their email id, etc]
This is a poor explanation. Firstly, the wording might make it appear that the people whose words were stolen, including me and Rashmi Bansal, were Manjunathan's batchmates, and we sent our stuff to them, both of which are untrue.

Secondly, consider this: if I send them a link that leads to an editorial in the Telegraph about Manjunathan, and they lift the content there and later claim that that it was sent to them by "Manjunathan's IIM batchmates," that explanation clearly won't hold. Well, the same copyright protection that applies to the Telegraph applies to Rashmi's blog. (For more, do read my post, "Copyright and the internet.")

In any case, one could excuse it as a mistake in good faith if an apology accompanied the clarification. No such apology does. Ethically, they owe an apology to:

a] Indian Express readers, who were lied to about the origin of this content.

b] To all the people, including Rashmi and me, whose editorial content was used without their permission, and in contravention of fair-use conventions. (Click here and go to point 4 for more.)

DNA, the Mumbai paper, gracefully issued such an apology when they were implicated in a similar case recently, and enhanced their credibility in the process. It is a shame that despite its talk of journalistic integrity, the Indian Express hasn't yet apologised for its obvious mistakes.

Cross-posted on We The Media.
amit varma, 10:22 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, November 25, 2005

Copyright and the internet

Consider this hypothetical example: Jerry Rao writes an Op-Ed in the Indian Express. It appears on, say, a Wednesday. It is about the License Raj. Two days later, the Times of India carries a piece about the License Raj. The strap of the piece says, "We have received an outpouring of letters from readers in India and overseas about the License Raj." It carries a selection of these 'letters.' The first of them is by Jerry Rao, and carries the first three paras of the piece he had written in IE. There is no mention of IE.

It would be a big deal, wouldn't it? IE would be justified in getting their knickers in a twist, as would Mr Rao, who sent ToI no letter at all. ToI would almost certainly carry an apology and a correction. Now, here's something I want to emphasize:

The copyright protection Rao's column in the Indian Express enjoys is exactly the same as that a post by Rashmi Bansal on Youth Curry enjoys, or a post by me on this blog.

Everything that appears on any internet site is protected by copyright, unless the author chooses to give it away. Click here for more on this. (Do read Point 4 of that to see what constitutes "fair use." ToI's use of Rao's article in my hypothetical example would not.)The practice that some Indian newspapers have adopted, of taking content freely from websites at will, ignores this truth. That needs to change.

PS: Let me stress that the above example was hypothetical. But this is not.

Cross-posted on We The Media.
amit varma, 10:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

“My shadow is my best friend”

One day Pankaj Sharma "walked to the bathroom, unscrewed a bottle of Phenyl and poured it down his throat. If his father hadn’t returned early from work, Bobby Darling wouldn’t have been born."

Do read yet another exceptional profile by Sonia Faleiro: "Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!"

(I was about to also comment that Bobby Darling is twice the man most of us are, when the thought struck me that it isn't exactly a compliment. So okay, she's not. Good for her.)
amit varma, 7:10 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Blog Mela coming soon

I had promised to put up the Blog Mela today when I invited nominations, but I'm afraid it's been a terribly busy week, and I shall have to delay it by a day. The post will be made tomorrow, November 26, sometime in the evening. Sorry for the delay.
amit varma, 6:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Arial, 12 points

That's fine print from now on. The RBI has mandated that the terms and conditions that banks give out to their customers must be in that font, in that size. Good move. For a fine analysis of the RBI's latest guidelines for banks, do read Gautam Chikermane's piece in the Indian Express.
amit varma, 6:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Oh, I would give up my life for you."

Never, ever, say this to anyone. They might just take you at your word.
amit varma, 6:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

What's a blogger's day like?

Something like this, it seems.

(Link via email from Gautam Ghosh.)
amit varma, 2:56 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The best livelihood available

Sanjeev Naik points me to a piece by Amelia Gentleman in the International Herald Tribune that speaks about the plans of the West Bengal government to ban hand-pulled rickshaws. Gentleman writes:
The mayor describes the job as "despicable"; the chief minister of the state of West Bengal, a Marxist, says it is "barbaric." City officials point out that hand-pulled rickshaws are a colonial anachronism that have been outlawed almost everywhere else in the world and argue that it is an "abuse of human rights" to allow these "human horses" to continue working.
Well, I agree with their description, but not with their prescription, which will put an estimated 18000 men out of work. These rickshaw pullers do the job they do not out of coercion, because someone puts a gun to their head and forces them to pull a rickshaw, but because out of all the options available to them, this is the one they like most. In other words, if they were not allowed to work this way, they would be doing something they consider more "despicable," more "barbaric," even more of an "abuse of human rights."

Gentleman quotes a rickshaw puller named Mohammed Nasim as saying:
I don't feel any indignity. If I wasn't pulling a rickshaw, then I'd have to work in a hotel, or start collecting up rubbish. I think rickshaw pulling is a better job.
Now, shouldn't the choice be his to make?

So what is the correct prescription then? Clearly, to offer these people better options of livelihood, enough of them, so that they can move on to better jobs. The government cannot create these jobs, but it can enable their creation. It can do this by removing all the impediments it puts in front of entrepreneurs and businessmen, and by abolishing the license and inspector raj. The more enterprise you have, the more jobs you will create, and the more options rickshaw pullers will have. (I'd earlier written on these impediments over here.)

If we want people to move up in life, there is only way to do so: to increase their choices. What the West Bengal government is proposing to do will diminish the choices of the people concerned. Bad move.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 12:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Indian Express steals from Rashmi Bansal's blog

The Indian Express has a massive feature, taking up two-thirds of a page in the print edition, featuring letters from people regarding the sad death of S Manjunathan. The strap on top says, "We have received an outpouring of letters from readers in India and overseas, many of them former classmates of the slain Manjunath."

The thing is, the Indian Express is lying.

These are not letters they have received, but excerpts from blogposts and comments. The first few "letters," in fact, are from a post Rashmi Bansal wrote on the subject here, and comments left on that post. That's right, they even stole the comments. In the print edition (and left off the online page, oddly), they also have a letter supposedly written by me, quoting the headline and the first line of this post, which sound rather stupid taken out of context.

IE is a newspaper I've admired for their editorial probity, and I am certain that this is just the work of some lazy sub-editor. I'd love to see what action they take against him or her. Also, they owe an apology to Rashmi, and to all the people they claimed wrote letters to them. This is out-of-character behaviour, and I hope they set the record straight.

Cross-posted on We The Media.

Update: The Indian Express has changed all the content on the page I linked to. Heh. Anyone living in India can see it in the print edition, however. I shall scan it and post a jpeg if it becomes an issue.

Update 2: Do read this post of mine: Copyright and the internet.

Update 3 (November 26): The Indian Express has accepted its mistake in a strangely half-hearted way, and has not apologised. Do read my post: "Mistake? Yes, ok. Apology? No."

Update 4 (November 29): Dance With Shadows writes on this subject.
amit varma, 11:51 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Stress leads to overeating

At least in rats.

So don't join the rat race.
amit varma, 4:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Hmm, these look similar

A reader named Sach Kohli sent me an email recently with six image attachments. Three were of articles published in the Times of India. The others were of articles published in Cosmopolitan. These two sets of articles were, well, rather similar.

To see these images, and the letter that Sach sent Jaideep Bose, an editor of the ToI, click here.
amit varma, 4:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Free speech in Tamil Nadu

The moral police have been especially vigilant in Tamil Nadu in recent times, but here's a welcome development: Rediff informs us that this is a website started by Karthi Chidambaram and Kanimozhi, the kids of P Chidamabaram and M Karunanidhi. Its purpose: "to voice its opinion against repression and to safeguard the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression." Read more here.

What is especially welcome about this initiative is that because of the people behind it, it will actually have some political clout, and will not be easily suppressed. Good going.
amit varma, 1:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The United Progressive Alliance...

... lost because it was divided, points out the Telegraph.
amit varma, 1:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

What envy?

I think Freud got it all wrong. I can't see why women could possibly envy that particular piece of equipment. It drives men crazy. Crazy enough to do things like this.

(Link via email from Anonymous Goatherd.)
amit varma, 12:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The way cheesecake melts

I'm suddenly feeling a little less bad about my, ahem, belly. DirtyTalkingGirl writes:
Board-flat male bellies, six-packs, washboard abs are all the rage these days, but what does a flat belly tell a woman about a man? In my experience, it says: here’s a man whose play is all workouts, who pays more attention to his own body than to mine, and who might even follow a critical survey of my own little pillow of tummy fat with the advice to "try the ab-cruncher."

No, thank you.

A rounded belly speaks of a man of moderation in his appetites, who enjoys work and play in salutary balance and who is not averse to a little self-indulgence either at board or in bed. He’ll let a single malt pool on his tongue and savour the way cheesecake melts from crumbly to creamy in the heat of his mouth. A big man can dally with a woman for hours without ever having to check his watch to see if it's time to hit the gym. He knows what constitutes a satisfying workout.
Immensely meritorious. I discovered this blog via K, by and by, whose name is often dropped by people who send me SMSs.

"Late for the meeting," I inform a friend. "K," comes the response. "Be late to work," I message a colleague. "K," he replies. Everybody knows K.

I wonder if K gets messages from people who just write, "Amit."
amit varma, 12:16 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The best tribute to Manjunath...

... would be to change the system that killed him. Do read this excellent post by Gaurav Sabnis: "Please make it count!"

But temper your hope. One of the men arrested for Satyendra Dubey's murder escaped recently from a high-security prison in Patna. Justice in India is a scarce commodity.

(Second link via email from Dr Bruno.)

Update: Animesh Pathak informs me about a tribute site, Remembering Manjunath. Do visit, and do sign the petition set up by his friends demanding justice from the prime minister of India.
amit varma, 11:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Available: train tickets to Jhumritalaiya

But some people want more. Tsk tsk.
amit varma, 11:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Coming for lunch?

You're my colleague in office, and at lunchtime I stride up to you and invite you out to lunch with me. TGIF or Kailash Parbat or Little Italy or Subway and so on. I promise to regale you with anecdotes involving me and autodrivers. You are tempted. You are charmed. Perhaps, if you have the right chromosomes, you are even aroused. You gaze up at me and are about to accept my invitation when you remember something.

"I'd love to come," you say, distraught, "but my dabba has come from home."

But I've saved my best card for last. "Haven't you heard of the sunk cost fallacy?" I ask.
amit varma, 2:52 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Welcome back. Now behave

Do read Ashok Malik on how the just concluded election "welcomes Bihar back to India."

Also, Reuben Abraham expresses a hope for the future, and Nitish Kumar promises to bring back the rule of law in Bihar.

I'm not knowledgable enough about Bihar and its politics to comment on this issue, but I'm glad to see the back of Laloo Prasad Yadav, and believe things can hardly get worse. My previous posts on the man: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
amit varma, 1:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Action and reaction 4

Salem forced to quit smoking.

Mayor Dalvi is pissed off.

(More A&R: 1, 2, 3.)
amit varma, 1:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Incentives for good behaviour

In response to my post on airports, reader Ila Bhatt writes in:
The next time i read an article/blog/column/whatever on improving pax. facilities at airports i am going to scream! I have spent a week travelling on a mix of old and new carriers in india and quite frankly, flying is now infinitely more dangerous and for once you cannot blame the govt.

The ineffective PYTs who pass off as attendants are no match for surly men who dismiss them outright. Every single flight i was on had people with cellphones switched on, got out of their seats while the flight was barely touching down, opened overhead bins before the plane halted and were at the exit before the aircraft could get parked! No amount of announcements from the PYTs restrained these guys! As a co-passenger I would try and tell people to sit down and even complained about a guy merrily checking his cellphone to no effect.

As pax we have a right to decent airports but we also have a duty to obey rules and regulations - sadly our national lack of civic sense is exposed to the very world we are trying to impress.
Okay, so here are two questions for my readers:

1. What incentives can the airlines offer passengers to behave themselves?

2. What incentive can we offer the airlines for offering those incentives?

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog, where comments are open. No, those questions aren't rhetorical.
amit varma, 12:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ping-u pong-u body

Guess who Megha Murthy is talking about here:
Hey, if you saw the gentleman wearing painted-on black leather pants, walking in slow motion or dancing to ping-u pong-u body, jing-u shing-u lady in response to the gal’s tip-u top-u look-u lip-u meeda kiss-u you would understand why I was reduced to a shivering noodle in his screen presence.
Why, the Megha-star, of course!
amit varma, 11:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"You want to keep this media revolution going?"

"Be ready to fight for it," writes Glenn Reynolds. He first said it here, and now he says it again here, and truer words were never spoken twice. Do read.
amit varma, 8:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ten billion dollars

That's the amount of money that is going to spent on revamping India's airports and building new ones in the next four years, according to this report. I hope most of it comes from private investment, which is always more efficient than government spending, and I think it would be money well spent.

Why so? Well, because of the halo effect. Airports are the entry point of many people into a city, and even the country, and inform their first impressions of it. Give them a neat, ultra-modern, comfortable airport, and you've already brought them closer to doing business here, or investing here, or even just spending time (and thereby money) here. If you want India Shining, you've got to get the airports shining first. Right now, we have neither.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 7:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Nice advice

Reader Shruthi Rao writes in:
I have a suggestion to make - In many of your posts, you say "nice post", "nice account", etc........ I learnt in school that "nice" is a "slip word". You slip it in when you don't have any other word to express yourself! :)

I don't think you are the kind who should be at a loss for words! I think it will be more elegant if you substitute a more appropriate word for "nice"!
Well, she's right, I have been lazy all those times I've used that word. For someone who criticises others for their cliches, I should be working a bit harder on my own language. Well, I stand chastised.

I won't promise not to use that word again, though. All said and done, it's a nice word.
amit varma, 7:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A knight or a trojan horse?

Pratap Bhanu Mehta examines the Right to Education Bill.
amit varma, 6:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Airport departure lounges suck

Why so? Tim Harford explains:
[T]ravelling first class by rail or air is much more expensive than buying a standard ticket, but since the fundamental effect is to get people from A to B, it may be hard to wring much money out of the wealthier passengers. In order to price-target effectively, companies may have to exaggerate the differences between the best service and the worst. There is no reason why standard-class railway carriages shouldn't have tables, for instance, except that potential first-class customers might decide to buy a cheaper ticket when they see how comfortable standard class has become. So the standard-class passengers have to do without.


The shoddy quality of most airport departure lounges across the world is surely part of the same phenomenon. If the free departure lounges became comfortable, then airlines would no longer be able to sell business-class tickets on the strength of their 'executive' lounges. And it would also explain why flight attendants sometimes physically restrain passengers from the cheap seats from stepping off the plane before the passengers from first and business class. This is a 'service' aimed not at economy-class passengers but at those looking on in pity and disgust from the front of the plane. The message is clear: keep paying for your expensive seats, or next time you might be on the wrong side of the flight attendant.
The excerpt I've quoted is from the first chapter of his book, "The Undercover Economist," which I can't wait to read. I hope it's released in India soon.

Harford, by and by, blogs here, and also writes the entertaining and enlightening column for the Financial Times, 'Dear Economist'.

Update: Here's a review of Harford's book by the Economist.
amit varma, 5:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Boys, I tell you!

I hope he gets the girl.

Or at least a girl.

(Link via Aadisht.)
amit varma, 4:56 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Globalisation and Indian cricket

I just made an addition to Cricinfo's Wicket to Wicket discussion on cricket in India: "The biggest threat to Indian cricket." Chug chug.
amit varma, 3:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

An honest man. A dead man

Manju Nathan is dead.

An alumni of IIM Lucknow, Nathan joined the Indian Oil Corporation where his job was to check for the adulteration of petrol in petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh, and report dealers who were messing with the fuel. The dealers, apparently, used bribery and intimidation to prevent their licenses being revoked. It was a dangerous job.

Well, now he's dead. Gaurav Sabnis, a friend of Manju's from his IIM days, has a moving post on the man here: "Bye, Machan."

Another Satyendra Dubey? Sure, just one difference: the media doesn't seem to care.
amit varma, 11:16 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, November 21, 2005

Saving Test cricket

In a thought-provoking post on Wicket to Wicket, Mukul Kesavan writes:
Are Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell going to make India a consistently successful team? I’ve no idea. Will they win the World Cup for us in the Caribbean? Who knows. What I do know is that even if they do, the victory will do nothing to change the condition of Indian cricket for the better. If you are worried, as I am, about the health of Test cricket, winning the World Cup might make things worse.
Read the full post.

My take on it: coming tomorrow.
amit varma, 7:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sparrow, remembered

"Nation mourns bird killed in domino shooting," Reuters reports. There's even a website set up for the dead bird, and one of the hundreds of condolence messages there reads, "gffg."

Even I want to learn Birdese.
amit varma, 7:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Moving the stock market

Well, here's a new way -- DNA reports:
A primary teacher with Zilla Parishad school -- who also deals in shares -- has been arrested by the local police for allegedly threatening, through an e-mail, to blow up Bombay Stock Exchange, police said here on Sunday.

Upon questioning, Rahul Omkar Sonar (28), resident of Varangaon in Jalgaon district, who sent the alleged e-mail to BSE on Friday, disclosed that the purpose behind it was to create panic in the stock market, whereby share prices would have crashed, ACP Bhusaval G V Khan.

Apparently, Sonar's plan was to buy shares at low prices after market-crash and to sell them off for huge profit once normalcy was restored.
Hmm. The grammar of the middle paragraph in this excerpt worries me more than any threat to the BSE. Not merely the last part of it, but also that Sonar "sent the alleged e-mail" instead of allegedly sending the email. According to this report, thus, he undisputedly sent something but it may not have been an email.

(In case you're wondering why I'm spelling "email" two ways in this post, well, "email" is how it is spelt according to the alleged India Uncut Style Guide, but DNA spells it as "e-mail," so while quoting them, I don't change their spelling. In case you're not wondering about this, well, why have you read this paragraph? Shoo!)
amit varma, 4:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Just gas

Play was held up a short while ago in the ongoing second Test between Pakistan and England because of an explosion near the boundary. The commentators seemed rather confused about it all, and yet tried to sound all-knowing.

"This is not a conventional big bomb," one of them said wisely, as listeners no doubt wondered what a "conventional big bomb" was.

Another commentator -- or perhaps the same one -- told viewers not to panic, there had just been a "massive, massive explosion."

The cause of the drama turned out to have been a gas cylinder. Cops waved the two halves of said cylinder around to assuage people that it was an accident. No terrorist attack and all that.

A gentleman in elegant shalwar kameez near the boundary line seemed rather unhappy. How would he boil his tea now?
amit varma, 4:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Su che

Why India was spared from Che's terror.

Su heh!

Update: More Che.
amit varma, 3:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Vande Mataram and suchlike

Devoid of meaning now, these slogans.
amit varma, 12:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Hugs-shugs, tears-shears, happy-shappies

Jai Arjun Singh sends dispatches from K3G-Land. Much entertainment.
amit varma, 12:18 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The languages divide

Sudheendra Kulkarni writes in the Indian Express:
[T]he neglect of Indian languages, and the unstoppable dominance of English, is not limited to literature. It can also be seen in education, administration, judiciary, and commerce. The decline and slow decay of our native languages is one of the most worrisome socio-cultural phenomena in contemporary India. It has created a new class divide in our society — those who speak English vs. those who don’t, with the former displaying an all too visible superiority complex. Travel across rural and small-town India, and you’ll encounter persons who know only a smattering of English but rank themselves "higher" than a good writer in Assamee or Oriya who cannot speak English. It is this sad scenario that prompted Kusumagraj, a Jnanpith laureate Marathi poet, to bemoan in a different context: "Indian languages, through very rich in themselves, are in a pitiable condition today. They are like a person clad in glittering clothes but standing with a begging bowl before English-speaking power-centres."
According to Kulkarni, the solution lies in the government setting up a "National Board for Translation of Indian Literature." I'm not sure that approach will work, and I think the change will come more from private entrepreneurs and publishers, who have much more of an incentive to tap into latent demand or create it. The government would be better off enabling and incentivising such ventures in the private sector -- maybe via tax rebates -- than by spending taxpayers' money on it much less efficiently. To continue with Kusumagraj's analogy, these 'beggars' don't need charity, but well-paying jobs. The government can't provide that; only the market can.

Earlier posts on the subject: 1, 2. Link via email from Joby.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 11:47 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The one kind of outsourcing I don't like

The outsourcing of homework.

Kids really should do their own homework, or what's the point of it? But I wouldn't be in favour of banning this industry or anything like that. Instead, I think schools need to get more innovative in creating incentives that ensure the kids do their own homework, and in changing the nature of the homework in that regard. All the work given by teachers in schools should aim to ensure that the kids pick up the tools to think independently about whatever they learn, and explore it out of natural curiosity. A lot of homework is just pointless drudge, and that is just the sort that will get outsourced. For all you know, if outsourcing of homework becomes common and schools start fighting against it, the education culture in our schools might improve and become more dynamic. Hmm...
amit varma, 11:35 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Quick, think of something clever

Desi Pundit is having a slogan contest.
amit varma, 11:24 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Getting high in a vest

No, that's not what ganjing is.

(Link via email from Rohit Gupta.)
amit varma, 10:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Chappell's gambit and the 2007 World Cup

Much fun is coming in the discussion on Indian cricket on Wicket to Wicket, Cricinfo's discussion blog. The last three posts:

Chappell's brave gambit, by Sambit Bal.
The question that gives me the shivers, by Ashok Malik.
How to win the 2007 World Cup, by Devangshu Datta.

Good stuff.
amit varma, 2:47 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Please blink

Thank you.
amit varma, 8:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

I'm so tired I just want to...

... sprawl.

Via Ravikiran, I find out that urban sprawl is universal and inevitable, and perhaps not a bad thing at all.

The moral police in India may not approve of pre-marital sprawl, though.
amit varma, 6:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cities and their oxygen

Celebrity isn't wisdom. And yet, newspapers run after celebs and get them to pontificate grandly on all kinds of subjects. Check out this piece in DNA in which Raveena Tandon expresses the view that Mumbai should have a cap to its population, and it should not "accept or absorb" any more people after that limit is reached.

I suggest Ms Tandon do some thinking on why Mumbai is such a thriving city. Urbanisation fuels economic growth -- Metcalfe's Law goes some way in explaining why -- and all great cities have been built on the sweat of migrants. Mumbai has many problems, but keeping people out, if such a thing is even logistically possible, will exacerbate and not solve them. Migration is the oxygen of cities -- let them breathe freely.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 3:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sore or soar?

Is CNN punning or is it a typo?

(Link via Ashok Hegde.)
amit varma, 2:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

DNA sends the right message

DNA swung into action right after they were informed that one of their chaps had plagiarised content from a Cricinfo article, and today they've issued an apology in their sports section. I couldn't find it online, so I'll reproduce it here:
DNA (Daily News & Analysis) would like to apologise to its readers and for an article published on page 32 of its newspaper on November 17, 2005, "Has the worm finally turned for Yuvraj." We have since discovered certain portions of the article have been lifted from another article on the subject published by, "From potential to performance" dated November 16. The author has been asked for an explanation.
Also, I am told by a friend who works there that a strong message on this matter has been sent to the staff as well. Well done, DNA.
amit varma, 2:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Our deep-rooted prejudices

Here's what Gaurav Sabnis has to say on the issue of call centres:
In my opinion, this whole call-centre-bashing exercise is an unconscious expression of the deeprooted prejudices in our collective minds put in place due to the caste system. The whole idea of the caste system was, only a few jobs are respectable. All other jobs, be they menial or trade-related, were secondary. So what a brahmin does was admirable, while what the cunning sahukar or the filthy shudra does, was not.

These very prejudices led to the Indian middle class placing too much emphasis on medicine, bureaucracy, engineering and charterd accountancy as the A-grade professions. This unnatural order was further maintained due to the socialist policies of the state which led to unemployment as well as underemployment. So most people with a "mere" BA or BCom or BSc could not aspire to earn more than 1/4th of what an engineer earns. And no one thought there was anything wrong with that.
Read the rest of his excellent post here.

My previous post on the subject: 1, 2, 3.
amit varma, 1:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The secret passion of Charles Dickens

At least it's a healthy one.

(Link via email from Ravages.)

Previous posts on this passion: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26.
amit varma, 1:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Have you seen my horns?

It seems I'm the devil. Tee hee.
amit varma, 1:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Blog Mela time

Veena has the latest Blog Mela up on her site. Neat stuff.

I'm hosting the next one, so here are the guidelines:

1. All posts between November 19 and November 24 are eligible, including on those two days.
2. All posts should be made by Indians or should focus on India.
3. Deadline is by the end of November 24, US time. My blog mela will be posted on November 25.
4. Please nominate just one post per blog, although for a group blog you can nominate one per contributor, for a maximum of 322 contributors. (An improvement on last time, you will note.)
4. Email me your entries with "Blog Mela" in the title.

Previous Blog Melas hosted by me: 1, 2, 3 and 4.
amit varma, 11:55 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, November 18, 2005

The wider extended order

Russell Roberts considers the questions:
[W]hy is it destructive to treat the wider extended order, the world of the marketplace in the same way that we treat our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives. Why is it destructive of civilisation (a very bold claim) to ask businesses to share their profits in good times or to treat workers with more compassion than the profit motive alone provides? Yes, the profit motive when combined with competition encourages businesses to treat its workers and customers well, but wouldn't it be better for those businesses to go beyond profits and treat workers and customers even better?
Read his answers here. Or read Hayek.
amit varma, 11:56 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Chhoti si Asha

Bahut badi Lata.
amit varma, 11:51 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

India Uncut Aphorism 17

In the information age, it’s not just whose army wins, but whose story wins.
Joseph S Nye Jr, a professor of international relations at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, as quoted in this article, which focusses on why it benefits the USA to welcome foreign students to its shores.

(Link via Abi.)

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 7:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Blog In

All those bloggers who complain that mainstream media doesn't understand what blogging is all about, I hereby urge you to check out Sruthijith KK's promising new series on blogs, Blog In, in DNA. The first three instalments: 1, 2, 3.

I also hereby promise never to use a word like "hereby" again. What's wrong with me? I'm becoming the Hindu.
amit varma, 6:56 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Never mind Abu Salem

Here's the cops.
amit varma, 5:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Get into bed right now

But don't go to sleep -- there is work to be done. Mr KS Sudarshan has more.
amit varma, 5:32 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Go forth and...

... send remittances.

Migration benefits everyone concerned, and I support the free movement of people as much as I do the free movement of goods. Maybe in a few decades...
amit varma, 1:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The resurgance of the Indian languages

After reading my post about how the most influential bloggers of the next ten years will be those writing in Indian languages, Vikram Arumilli points me to this nice story in the Guardian that discusses the revival of Hindi literature in particular, and the regional languages in general. That is indeed where the action is going to be.
amit varma, 12:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Such joy

I loved it when Mike Hussey reached his century today, the way he celebrated, jumping and whooping in delight, with unbridled, unrestrained joy. The sport seems so beautiful in moments like that.

Then the camera cuts to the West Indians, and their last few years flash through your mind. Not so joyful. That's sport too. And life.
amit varma, 12:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Why is the rain falling so slowly?"

Arnab Nandi discovers snow.
amit varma, 12:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Most expensive haircut ever

For the hairdresser, that is.
amit varma, 1:25 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Capitation and decapitation

James Surowiecki writes in the New Yorker about the American government's contradictory approaches towards Big Tobacco, and how "[o]ne wing of government ... is partnering with tobacco while the other is trying to demolish it."

Great magazine, by the way, but it really should change its website design -- that thin column of text is most user-unfriendly.
amit varma, 1:03 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Imitation is not the best form of flattery

Not when it's plagiarism.

My friend and colleague, Dileep Premachandran, wrote a nice piece on Yuvraj Singh after India's first ODI against South Africa on November 16. It came on Cricinfo that evening. Somebody in DNA read it. And copied it. Click here for details.

I am not going to judge DNA on what has happened, though, but on what they do about it. They have been informed. They can't scrutinise every single piece that goes up, and there's always a chance that a lazy and unscrupulous employee will do something of this sort. But they can punish him for it, and they can make sure that punishment stands as a deterrent for future would-be plagiarisers. Let us see what they do.

Cricinfo has often faced this kind of plagiarism. For some reason, people using the net for research often assume that everything on the internet can be used by anybody. Well, that's rubbish. Everything you read on the internet is copyrighted by default, though the author of the content can give it away if he so desires by specifically stating as much. But MSM outlets in India don't seem to care about matters such as intellectual theft.

The news programs of some TV channels often just read out from our reports, verbatim, and even some of our analysis. A popular book released in India last year cannibalised the content of the popular series on Cricinfo, All Today's Yesterdays. A few months ago a cricket magazine based in Delhi copy-pasted its entire editorial from a piece Dileep had written on Cricinfo. A quickie book written by a Delhi journalist, then in the Pioneer and now in the Times of India, after India's tour of Pakistan had large chunks lifted from articles Cricinfo writers had written in Pakistan. (Hell, why just us, Indian newspapers have even copied from Roger Ebert!) In many of these cases, the publishers and editors were informed of this theft. The response: apathy.

And that is why it is time to up the ante.

Update: I just remembered that DNA has been down this road before. Hmmm.

Update 2: Here's a match report on Cricinfo by Jenny Thompson. And here's the same report, filched, on the Bangladesh Observer (scroll down after clicking the link). Those people seem to think that putting "internet" in brackets in the dateline justifies the theft. I am told they do this regularly.

(BO link via colleague Sreeram Veera.)
amit varma, 12:22 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hum Blogistani

Debashish Chakrabarty, the organiser of the Indibloggies, got in touch with me recently to say that prior to this year's awards, he was planning to run a series called "Hum Blogistani" that would feature various Indian bloggers talking about what he terms the "Indi-blogosphere." He wanted me to start off the series, and my piece, "A tool for social change," is up on Indibloggies now. He introduces the concept of the series in the first three paras, after which my piece begins.

Debashish requested that the piece be available exclusively on his site, so I'm not cross-posting it here. But I'm allowed to excerpt from it, so here's the last bit of the piece, my justification for the prediction that "the most influential Indian blogs of the next ten years will be those written in Indian languages":
Most of India does not speak English, and for too long the elites have condescended to them. This will change. As internet access becomes ubiquitous, more and more people will want to read content in their own languages. And while the regional papers, set in their fixed ways, will largely disappoint them, bloggers will not. Language software today is easily available and easy to use, and a whole generation of free thinkers and fearless writers will emerge. They will write in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Urdu, Oriya and every other language and dialect of this country. They will reach out to an audience of hundreds of millions of people, not the mere tens of thousands we bloggers in English have access to right now. They will truly do what some us vainly and bombasticly speak of sometimes: they will change the country.

It will take years, but it will happen.
You can read the full piece here.
amit varma, 11:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Talking about Indian cricket

I'd kicked off a discussion yesterday, on Cricinfo's Wicket to Wicket blog, on the state of Indian cricket. Harsha Bhogle has just made an interesting post on the subject. Ashok Malik, Devangshu Datta, Mukul Kesavan and Sambit Bal are the other participants. So watch that space, fun will come.

Moderated comments are now enabled on that blog, by the way.
amit varma, 3:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

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