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.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

No toilet in a temple (and a Happy New Year)

My last post of December 31, 2004, might give you a clue as to why I am not too excited by the thought of New Year's Eve. I was in Nagapattinam on that day, getting my atheism hardened, and deciding that even if God did turn out to exist, I wanted nothing to do with that bitch.

I am in Mumbai now, comfortable in my own home, about to leave this laptop and go sip some wine. Then, because it is the done thing, we shall wish each other at midnight, and try and feel merry for a moment.

Just a moment.

Happy New Year. Have a great 2007.
amit varma, 11:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A substitute for reality

The New York Post has an excellent feature on internet porn titled "Not Tonight, Honey. I'm Logging On." If you're a man, read it and see if you find it familiar. I do.

And that makes me rethink the cheery optimism I expressed in this post, about porn not impinging much into real-world relationships. Would we even know if it did?

(LInk via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 10:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Christmas Price Index

This is interesting, if somewhat irrelevant to India. Perhaps we should have a Diwali Price Index? What are the items you would include in that?

(Link via email from Peter Griffin.)
amit varma, 10:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Coming up: The Year of the Pig

To be precise, the fluorescent green pig.

Imagine fluorescent green salami. Just like veggies, but glowing and tasty. Mmm.

(Link via email from IndianArchie.)
amit varma, 10:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

On spellings, Crossword and the labour market

PrufrockTwo has put up a hilarious post with pictures showing how the Crossword staff at the Juhu branch have got spellings of authors wrong in their shelf labels. There you will find "Harlun Coben," "Agatha Christi," "Salman Rushidi," Micheal Crichton" and more such joy.

This is a step further than displaying books in sections they do not belong in, as I'd once blogged about. A few months ago, I asked the then-CEO of Crossword R Sriram about this, and he told me that it had all to do with the BPO boom.

Any young, minimally educated Indian can now get easy jobs in the BPO industry that pay far more than what Crossword can afford for its sales staff. As a result, Sriram used to find it almost impossible to hire attendants who actually knew anything about books. Now it would seem that Crossword can't even hire managers who know how to spell.

Sriram's strategy was to make up for this with ambience and a friendly environment at his stores. It works because most of his customers presumably don't care about spellings, and don't want the breadth and depth on display that PrufrockTwo and I would wish for. (I vastly prefer Landmark and Strand, but Crossword's a nice place to chill and have a frappe or two.)

That said, I'm sure Crossword could get innovative by a) getting Lit students from across the city involved, maybe by hiring some on a part-time basis and b) incentivising customers to improve their services. For example, if they gave PrufrockTwo a Rs. 1000 gift voucher for pointing out those mistakes, that would be money well spent, for multiple reasons.

Whether he would find anything worth acquiring with that voucher is an entirely different matter, of course!
amit varma, 12:49 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Should it be illegal to sell intellectual stimulation?

Why sex, then?

Do check out this wonderful short story by Woody Allen, The Whore of Mensa. It's from the collection, Without Feathers.

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

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The perils of a typo

Reuters reports:
A 21-year-old German tourist who wanted to visit his girlfriend in the Australian metropolis Sydney landed 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles) away near Sidney, Montana, after mistyping his destination on a flight booking Web site.
Well, the gentleman should simply look at the bright side of things: travel, after all, does broaden the mind. And I would bet that it also teaches how to spell.

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 6:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saddam Hussein is dead

Saddam's been hanged, and that is as it should be. I find it odd that the entirely reasonable opposition many people have towards the Iraq War so often translates into sympathy for Saddam. The sympathy is misplaced. The man was a monster, a mass-murderer without remorse, and as in the case of so many of the Nuremberg accused, the sentence was deserved.

It might be true that other dictators quite as bad as Saddam remain in power elsewhere in the world, but that was no reason to let him be. If anything, Saddam's execution will serve as a warning to future rulers: being head of state does not bring immunity from the law. Anything other than the death sentence for Saddam, after all the crimes he committed against his own people, would have been a joke.
amit varma, 6:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The ten-more-minutes syndrome

Hip Grandma nails the biggest reason for our perennial inability to get anything done.

Blogging grandmothers are the coolest thing ever. Joy cannot but explode.

(Link via email from Naveen Mandava.)
amit varma, 5:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"With subsidy and justice for all"

Check out Scott Ott's parody on John Edwards, "Edwards Launches White House Bid for ‘08, ‘12 and ‘16." Immense fun.

I find Edwards to be a laughable goofball, but that, of course, is not a disqualification if you want to stand for the highest office. Where will Jon Stewart and Jay Leno look for laughs if the Americans elect a sensible president?

(Link via Instapundit.)
amit varma, 5:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Have you thought about being an accountant?"

That's the question I am asked by this website that calculates my "Web Coolness Rating" at -4%. The nerve!

I am sure all my readers have higher Web Coolness Ratings, and are guffawing as I type this words. Pfaw.

(Link via email from reader VatsaL.)
amit varma, 2:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, December 29, 2006

The 100 most influential Americans ever

The Atlantic Monthly has come out with a list of the 100 most influential figures of American history. Lists are controversial by their nature, but this seems like a pretty good one, though I wish the Monthly had linked to a brief historical essay on each of their choices instead of the handful of descriptive lines. That would have been fun.

Of course, most people are appalled by my sense of fun, and would rather go see Bhagam Bhag. What to say now?

And let's not even get into why Faulkner is listed above Hemingway, or why Miles Davis isn't in the list and Einstien is. No list can ever please everybody.
amit varma, 1:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Much ado about cloning

The FDA in the US has announced that "milk and meat from some cloned farm animals are safe to eat," and this has raised a furore. Odd. The furore, that is.

The way I see it, cloning is just another form of breeding, and there is nothing to tell a cloned animal apart from a real one at any given point of time. And if you find the fact of its being cloned something to protest, what about identical twins? Why is it okay for nature to do something but not for humans?

I would, in fact, extend the same argument in favour of genetically modified foods. Of course, it would be a different matter if they harmed the environment or the people who consumed them. But that should be a matter of scientific demonstration, not of political rhetoric.

(Link via email from Arjun Narayan.)
amit varma, 1:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A drunken divorce

Guy gets drunk. Guy says "talaq talaq talaq" to his wife. The neighbours overhear. The next day, the guy is happy with the wife again, the wife is happy with the guy again, but the village won't let them stay together. CNN-IBN reports:
While Akhtar and Sakina say they want to stay together and have no problems with each other, the local maulvis (Muslim clerics) have decreed them to be divorced.

According to Islamic law, for the duo to stay man and wife, Sakina has to marry another man, stay with him for at least four months, divorce him and then marry Akhtar again.

“He said it in a drunker stupor. We want to stay together but the society won’t let us,” says Sakia.
Really, what manner of foolishness is this? It reminds me of something Ayn Rand once said:
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
It is Akhtar and Sakina who deserve our protection here, not these gentlemen who wish to impose their will on others under the name of religion, which really should be just a matter of personal choice. No?

(Link via email from reader Shrek.)
amit varma, 12:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cliches about food

Dhoomketu comes up with a list of the top five food cliches he has come across. No. 1 certainly needed to be said:
1) Dhaba food's great. (If you don't like it, you're a 'pseud'.)
What do I say about this one? A shallow menu, deep garnish of coriander on every dish, huge slabs of tasteless butter put over everything... And that's talking about the positives.
...Unwashed vegetables, bones instead of meat, and that's only the keema I am talking about, two basic tastes - bland or burning hot, rotis with uncooked centres and burnt edges.

Plus, these days, even the prices aren't low.
Dead right. I'm a huge fan of the concept of dhabas, but the reality never quite lives up to it, and I vastly prefer a good Delmonico Steak to an oily chicken masala. That's right, I'm not just an evil capitalist, I'm also an elitist prig. So there.
amit varma, 12:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Paunch-proof shirts?"

It sounds good in theory, but I'll have to see it to believe it.

The only way to appear not to have a paunch, I have come to believe, is to not have a paunch. I am told that my haircut has made me look much younger, and I shall now endeavour to lighten my midriff as well. Off to the gym!

(On the other hand, the danger of making a new-year resolution in advance means that the resolution may be broken even before the new year begins. Let us see...)
amit varma, 11:55 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, December 28, 2006

How to write about India for the foreign media

Neelakantan nails it!

I hope the NYT and the Guardian are inundated with submissions now. Heh.

(Link via email from Ravikiran.)
amit varma, 10:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


The USA is older and richer than independent India, and it shows: their legislators have thought of far more nuanced and out-of-the-box ways to steal from their people.

Our government could of course respond by saying that when it comes to stealing, it's crude but it gets the job done. I can't argue with that.

(Link via email from Anand Krishnamoorthi.)
amit varma, 10:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


AP reports:
An Army Reservist despondent about being sent to Iraq was killed by police during a 14-hour standoff that began Christmas night when family members told authorities he was armed and threatening to kill himself.
Farce or tragedy?

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 6:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Why should Flintoff's cliches matter?

Andrew Miller of Cricinfo complains, "Flintoff still full of cliches." He writes that after the defeat at Melbourne, "all of his [Flintoff's] usual buzzwords were in place" as he kept restating the "bleeding obvious."

Now, no one's as severe a critic as me of cliches being used in cricket writing, but Miller's criticism is misplaced because Flintoff's not a cricket writer. Flintoff's job is to play good cricket and lead his side well on the field, and speaking to the press is just one of the burdens that come with the job. As long as he's been reasonably honest and respectful, it's unfair to berate him for using unoriginal phrases. As unfair, in fact, as it would be for Flintoff to say that Miller's batting technique is defective.

Let us leave aside the small matter that phrases like "on a wing and a prayer" and "staring down the barrel" turn up in Miller's article as well. Perhaps Miller was just exhausted after a hard day's play, and those tired phrases crept in. Think of poor Flintoff then.
amit varma, 5:42 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to predict an earthquake

Watch snakes.

The phrase in the headline, "head-banging snakes," simply rocks. I wouldn't want to be in that moshpit, though.

(Link via email from Prabhu.)
amit varma, 5:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dogs that spend all day running in circles

There's something worryingly post-human about this.

Or is it non-human?

Or is it all too human, and all too inevitable?

I wonder if the sense of futility that comes from being genetically programmed to run round and round in circles is necessarily greater than being programmed not to run round and round in circles. At least there's movement, and you're busy doing shit.

Disclosure: I'm not a dog.

(Link via email from Sharath Rao.)
amit varma, 5:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

RIP Kill 'em, James Brown!

James Brown is dead. Jon Pareles nails it in an NYT obituary when he writes that Brown's music was "was sweaty and complex, disciplined and wild, lusty and socially conscious." But you're unlikely to read a better piece on Brown than Philip Gourevitch's masterly feature from four years ago, "Mr Brown", in which he writes:
Mr. Brown has always regarded his public with an attitude akin to that of a politician on the campaign trail: by their adulation, he says, "the people" made him, and to keep them he must serve them. At the same time, he has the peculiar idiomatic habit of describing himself as a slayer of audiences. "Normally, I just go out there and kill 'em," he declared in the Oakland dressing room. What he means by such remarks is that, for as long as the price of a ticket brings you to him, he will transport you so totally into the grip of his groove that you will forget your mortal coil in eager surrender, and, if he does his job well, he will literally control your breathing as precisely as if he had his hand clenched around your trachea. So the relationship is symbiotic: he gives his all, and asks for nothing less in return.
Mr Gourevitch's feature is worthy of its subject, of course, writing lifted to a special pitch. Reading it, I can hear Brown singing in my head, and I can feel the goosebumps.

And then I turn the record player on, and I'm transported. Sex machine indeed!

Update (December 28): Reader Anupama directs me to Jonatham Lethem's excellent feature, "Being James Brown."Nikhil Pahwa directs me to a 10-minute film called "Beat the Devil." And Boing Boing has some terrific links here, including to many videos.
amit varma, 4:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Do you have a "creative, limber mind?"

It all depends on how messy you are. Check out this article in the New York Times, which describes the "anti-anticlutter movement" and speaks of how mess "has resonance" and "can vibrate beyond its own confines and connect to the larger world."

So finally I have an excuse. Now all I need is a study that shows that laziness increases productivity, and I'm all set.
amit varma, 3:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The fragility of the online world

All of us take the internet for granted, much as we do life itself. But as this incident shows, it's much more fragile than we assume. After all, its roots are in the real world.

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 2:32 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A body in the hold

I know cockroaches have often been reported in Air India, but a dead body in the hold? This must be a first.

The Ramsay Brothers should just shoot their next horror film on a plane. AI passengers will no doubt find it all too familiar.
amit varma, 2:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Of intayleegent Biharis and vegetarian veal

Jai Arjun Singh meets the strangest people.

Why, then, do they seem so familiar?
amit varma, 4:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, December 25, 2006

Adultery and crime

I present to you, in all their archaic glory, sections 497 and 498 of the Indian Penal Code:
497. Adultery

Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall be punishable as an abettor.

498. Enticing or taking away or detaining with criminal intent a married woman

Whoever takes or entices away any woman who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of any other man, from that man, or from any person having the care of her on behalf of that man, with intent that she may have illicit intercourse with any person, or conceals or detains with that intent any such woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
All this assumes, of course, that a woman is equivalent to a man's property, and does not possess volition of her own. Can you stand for such laws to exist in the country where you live?

And should adultery be treated as a crime, or merely a breach of trust between two people, and thus as a civil case instead of a criminal one? The question comes to mind after reading this report (via email from reader Venkata Datla), and the last sentence there worries me. What on earth is a "national consensus"?
amit varma, 10:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cancel your tickets and hotel bookings

Spend this vacation reading instead. Chandrahas Choudhury lists his favourite books of 2006, and each of them represents a splendid journey in itself.

Goa? Pah!
amit varma, 10:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Kaun banega asteroid victim?

It seems that we are "750 times more likely to be killed by an asteroid than to win this weekend’s lottery."

So if you pass by Seven Bungalows in Andheri sometime and see a mad guy on the street corner staring at the sky, it's probably me. Gotta be careful and all that.

(Link via email from reader VatsaL.)
amit varma, 6:13 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The dangers of Tofu

"There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture," writes a gentleman named Jim Rutz in WorldNetDaily. What is this poison? you wonder. It's Soy.

"Soybean products are feminizing," writes Rutz, because they contain "substantial quantities of estrogens."

I find in Wikipedia that this is, indeed, a much-discussed controversy. The Guardian, meanwhile, feels that Soy is perfectly safe, at least as compared to that dreaded substance, cow's milk.

This is dreadful: everything we eat can harm us. I think I'll starve for a few hours and see if I feel better.

(Rutz link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 1:45 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Irony time: 4

PM slams India's laidback attitude.

(More Irony: 1, 2, 3.)
amit varma, 1:41 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Singur and Tapasi Malik

I have no idea what to make of this post, but I'm baffled that the mainstream media hasn't looked a little closer into what really happened to Tapasi Malik. The only MSM reports I could find: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
amit varma, 1:27 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Why is the allele so damn dominant?

Wikipedia normally contains fairly accessible language, which is why this sentence (from here) took me a bit by surprise:
Lactose intolerance is an autosomal recessive trait, while lactase-persistence is the dominant allele.
Tremulous paracetamols glide passively.
amit varma, 1:08 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Merry Christmas

Especially to those of you in Turkey, who are hereby encouraged to consume their country.
amit varma, 12:48 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Big brother is watching you

The Rational Fool peeks into the future.

The scary bit is not that big brother may soon be able to watch you, but that he exists. No?
amit varma, 12:31 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, December 24, 2006

One quick way to lose some weight

With great joy I announce that India Uncut has just had the first haircut of its existence. Savage relief erupts. Immense lightness floats.

If you're Arindam Chaudhuri and you're reading this, no doubt you're thinking, "Ah, finally I shall have the best ponytail in India."

There's just one reply that comes to mind: "Dude Arindam, to have the best ponytail in India, you'll have to have the only fricking ponytail in India."

So there.
amit varma, 4:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

20 days without a PC

Can you imagine?

(Link via email from reader Aboli Salvi.)
amit varma, 2:17 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Getting married?

Ask each other these questions first.

(Link via email from Patrix.)
amit varma, 2:11 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The weight of the world can take you backwards

No, no, I'm not going to jhaaro general philosophy, apt as it might sometimes seem. Instead, watch this video:

(Link via email from reader VatsaL.)
amit varma, 12:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Jeeps vs Children

Children are more harmful to the environment, Dush Ramachandran argues convincingly.

Yeah, but just imagine the labour pains a Jeep would cause.
amit varma, 2:22 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ravi Shastri and Section 295 (a)

PTI reports:
A case was filed against former Test cricketer Ravi Shastri in a local court here for allegedly hurting the religious feelings of Hindus by reportedly eating beef during the India-South Africa Test match in Johannesburg.


The complainant alleged that Shastri has hurt the feelings of Hindus by reportedly eating beef in full knowledge and by commenting, "though I know that I am a Brahmin, I can't stop myself from eating the dish (billtang)."
I'm no fan of Shastri's commentary -- he is a master of the kind of cliches I describe here -- but would the cops take me seriously if I complained that I was offended by it? Giving offence should not be a crime, no matter what the context is. One of the laws the case has been filed under is Section 295(a), and I repeat the assertion I first made here -- that law should not exist.

(Link via email from Gaurav.)

Update: The Rational Fool points out the Shastri was merely following our scriptures when he ate beef. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states:
VI-iv-18: He who wishes that a son should be born to him who would be a reputed scholar, frequenting the assemblies and speaking delightful words, would study all the Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with the meat of a vigorous bull or one more advanced in years, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son. [My emphasis.]
I don't know about the butter, but I'm sure Shastri could argue that the issue stands clarified.

Meanwhile, Gautam John points to how a bunch of academics are fighting for the freedom of expression, while a blogger's been driven out of town because of something he wrote on his blog.

No, no, not me. Not yet.
amit varma, 2:03 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dhishum dhishum

This entirely entertaining fight scene ends with the corniest finish ever, especially the one-liners at the end. Lascivious lasagna.

(Link via email from MadMan, himself a martial arts expert of great renown.)
amit varma, 12:53 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, December 22, 2006

Marilize Legajuana

Spotted on a T-shirt in Royapettah, says Ravages. Spiffy!
amit varma, 6:52 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to do nothing

To some of us, like me, it comes naturally. Other have to work towards it, and it is for them that this list has been prepared. It ain't easy.

(Link via email from Ravages, and he got it from Sleepyface.)
amit varma, 6:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Irony time: 3

A minister in Andhra Pradesh describes the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) as rowdies. The TRS chaps are most upset, and no doubt wish to prove that the allegation is false. So what do they do? The Hindu reports:
The Andhra Pradesh Assembly today plunged into pandemonium as Telangana Rashtra Samithi members rushed towards Treasury Benches, making angry gesticulations, and manhandled a Congress member in the scuffle, leading to their suspension from the House for the day.


As Treasury Benches and other Opposition members watched in disbelief, the TRS members T Harish Rao, a first-time MLA and nephew of the party MP K Chandrasekhar Rao, and N Narasimha Reddy charged towards the Congress members, with raised fists.

Senior members from all parties tried to pacify them and hold them back. In the scuffle, Congress member Krishna Reddy was manhandled.
Immense pride erupts in our noble democracy. And ah, here's the report with the "rowdies" quote.

(Links via email from RJ.)

(More Irony: 1, 2.)
amit varma, 6:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Beggars can be choosers

Kalyan Varma calculates, in a post called "Economics of Begging in Bangalore," that beggars at traffic signals in Bangalore can make as much as Rs 24,000 a month if they work eight-hour days. Maybe it's time for me to leave the blogosphere and enter the beggosphere.

Of course, as someone points out in the comments, it is likely that many of these beggars belong to syndicates, and don't actually make that much money themselves. Also, I'm sure the cost of entry into the profession would be way too high for some: losing an arm or a leg, for example. My joke in the first para is, thus, tasteless. Giving the privileged upbringing I've had, it's likely that I cannot even imagine a beggar's life. Shame shame.

There, I've said it myself. Who's going to feed the trolls if I eat humble pie myself?

(Link via email from Anand.)
amit varma, 6:00 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Men are redundant

It stands to reason that when virgins give birth, men might as well go hibernate.

(Both links via Anthony, the first via email.)
amit varma, 3:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


Such a lovely word. It makes laziness sound good.

Yes, it's another of those afternoons. I've been listening to some old music, walking here and there in the house, feeling mildly low, and wondering, as the warm December sunshine reveals the dust on my laptop screen, if I could get away with just lazing around today, doing no work.

But then there's you lot out there.

Does it show when the blogging is forced?
amit varma, 3:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cater to the wild self

Don't give cash this Christmas, give presents.

On a tangent, Christmas is a terrible day for me: for the last few years, it has been the last day of my youth. My birthday falls on December 26, which means that this Christmas will be my last day as a 32-year-old. The next day I'll feel so much older, even though just a day would have passed. (Or a minute, after 11.59 pm.) Every year this happens, and when the inevitable cannot be ignored, I adjust my definition of youth, adding one more year to it.

And I tell myself things like:

"My life isn't a waste yet. XXX wrote his first novel at [insert current age plus eight]."

"If I get a haircut and go the gym regularly, I might look younger."

"Writers need experience, they need to have lived. I'm living."

"Women like older men."

The last is a particular weak attempt, one that I never dare think in front of the mirror, lest I start laughing at myself. Immense old age creeps up.

(MR link via email from Shruti.)
amit varma, 3:15 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What happens to your passwords when you die?

Fear not, Death Switch is there.

It's quite practical and all, but I predict that this site will not thrive. Humans are programmed by evolution to put off thinking about death, and while we know, in a rational sense, that death is inevitable, we never quite accept it at an emotional level. To avail of the service that Death Switch offers, we have to come to terms with the one fact we try never to think about: we will die. That isn't easy -- or even practical.

Indeed, in my view, the monstrous difficulty of facing up to our own mortality is the biggest reason for the existence of religion. But that's another topic entirely.

(Link via email from MadMan.)

Update (December 22): KM writes in:
Just today, I was reading an essay by J Krishnamurti, in which he talks about this rather idiotic notion of reincarnation, afterlife, soul and stuff, all of which have been exist solely to prevent us from looking directly at Death.
Meanwhile, Anand Krishnamoorthi, Arjun Swaroop and reader Raghav Khosla write in separately to ask if I've heard of life insurance.

I wish there was insurance for bloggers writing posts in a hurry from airports and making the right point with the wrong example. (Or vice versa.) Pah.
amit varma, 8:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A mistake in Saudi Arabia

NDTV reports:
A Keralite, who was reportedly facing death sentence in Saudi Arabia, has been set free due to timely intervention of Indian authorities.


According to Jojo's family members in Edathua, the Saudi authorities later took a lenient view of the case after they were convinced that he did not deliberately commit the mistake.
And what was this mistake. RJ, who mailed me the link, explains:
No, not murder, not burning religious texts, not insulting God. He just got into a taxi, which lost its way and strayed into Medina.
I wonder how our government would have reacted if the chap had actually been put to death for losing his way in a cab. What do you think they should have done in such a situation?
amit varma, 11:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The EU as a model for Kashmir?

SK Sinha, the governer of Jammu and Kashmir, suggests that India consider the Europian Union as a model for "solving" the Kashmir issue. It sounds nice if we're into wishful-thinking mode, but it isn't realistic, for the simple reason that it is not in Pakistan's interest to allow this. Their military establishment sustains itself from the conflict with India, and no matter how much they speak of peace, it is not in the military's interest to end that conflict.

What is in Pakistan's interest is an entirely different matter. But for now, the military is in charge there, and we must be realistic about that.

(Link via email from Naveen Mandava.)
amit varma, 9:33 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

On rules and rigidity

Steve Yegge constructs a superb parable for programmers out of an incident at an airport security queue. Nice.

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 9:29 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Eminent domain as a tool for extortion

Check out the summary of this article:
Developer Demanded $800,000 or Village Would Take Property;
Property Owners Refused, Village Condemned Land Next Day.
Once you establish a precedent of using eminent domain to acquire land for private purposes, you set a precedent for extortion/crony capitalism/theft/call it what you will. That is why it is important to protest Kelo and Singur and so on.

(Link via email from Gautam John. Also see this excellent post on eminent domain by Shruti Rajagopalan.)
amit varma, 6:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The No. 1 beer-drinking nation in the world

No, it's not Germany or England or the USA.

It's China.

No wonder they have a great wall there. It's to stop people from accidentally staggering out of the country and not finding their way back.
amit varma, 6:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to be promiscuous and get away with it

Step 1: Have an accident.

It amuses me how easily some people are allowed to pass on responsibility for their decisions on to other things. Pah.

(Link via email from Kusum Rohra.)
amit varma, 5:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to win the War on Terror


I have recurring nightmares of being attacked by mosquitoes with battleaxes. As I'm not the terrorist types, I suppose I don't have to worry about bees.

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 1:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Left-aligned v Justified

Naveen sends me a link to a study that shows that left-aligned text is more reader-friendly than justified text. Darn right it is. Why else would I use it on my blog?
amit varma, 1:18 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The dignity of an iceberg

Here's Ernest Hemingway on writing:
If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.
This is from Death in the Afternoon.

It's true of all kinds of writing, of course, not just fiction. Even while reading blogs, I can often sense a writer's weight, and the depth of his knowing, behind the simplest prose. And equally, it is easy to tell when, despite fancy words and dense language, the writer doesn't know his subject well enough.

I'm a huge fan of icebergs.

Update: Rishi points me to Hemingway's Nobel speech. I love the bit about facing eternity.
amit varma, 10:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Marriage is a cruel bitch?

Quote of the day:
In my opinion, marriage of dogs is cruelty on animals.
So says Naresh Kadyan, chairman of a group called People for Animals. The context:
A Hindu wedding ceremony of 18 dogs has been called off in India after hardline religious groups and animal rights activists said it was a mockery of the religion and cruel to the canines, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

The marriage of nine dogs to nine bitches to promote canine culture was expected to take place on Sunday in the northwestern town of Jaipur, the Times of India reported.
I'm a huge fan of canine culture, and I have no issues with mocking religion. But could the gentlemen who organised this think of nothing better? As far as doggies are concerned, it's a dog's life anyway. Why throw marriage into the mix?
amit varma, 2:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The weight of literature

Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture is magnificent. It inspires, it moves, and it is as good an account of what it means to write as any I have read.

Read it slowly.
amit varma, 1:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Anurag Kashyap on Khalid Mohammad and Indian film criticism

I wish Anurag Kashyap would pay more attention to grammar and punctuation, which would render his posts more reader-friendly, but I couldn't agree more with what he has to say about Khalid Mohammad (he starts off by talking about Kabul Express):
Well i have been dying to see Kabul express..mostly positive reviews barring few..but then bad reviews were from the same few who loved it can be ignored.. [...] it might not even be in the top lists of the year but it definitely is in the top ten of the most courageous attempt of the year..and khalid Mohammad who shits in his pants on the sets of his own movie, how would he ever hold it together if he had to even visit the place like Kabul..the same guy wrote something similar for haasil..well the land and the mileu he so made fun of and called it unreal had sehar and omkara following up..and he missed people in Kabul not stopping to eat..he did not miss the india, pakistan politics and conflicts and changing equations in Veer Zara..may be his equations have changed with Yashraj..I have a question for him..”how old was zohra sehgal in veer zara when she died,considering the number of years srk was in jail and all the other time transactions in the film”

Anyway its not about him..i am just lamenting the fact that we so lack good critics in this country.. "progress of any society depends on its art and the evolution of any artform depends on its critics..and our digression is the proof of lack of them”.. [Emphasis in original.]
And later, Kashyap writes:
Khalid Mohammad is no Francois Truffaut..he is just a wannabe..nikhat or deepa are not pauline kael..our film magazines are not cahiers du cinema..this is not paris in the fifties or sixties when cinema was all passion..we are frogs in a well.and we will pull down everyone who wants to climb out..
Truer words were never said.

A decade ago, most readers in India did not have the context to realise how bad their film critics were: only a few, elite people got to read the Eberts and the Kaels, and most of us had no access to quality international cinema. (The Hollywood stuff that got released here was mostly mainstream pap.)

But now that's changed. The internet has increased our access to quality writing in cinema, and Indian reviewers can no longer get away with either mediocrity or plagiarism. (The latter gets caught especially fast, as happened in the cases of Nikhat Kazmi and Gautaman Bhaskaran.) Good films are also much more accessible, and my local DVD library has everything by Kiarostami, Kieslowski and Kubrick.

As these cultural influences shape us, hopefully they will also shape the cinema that we consume. But even if we tire of the entrenched, mediocre critics out there, the newspapers don't have efficient feedback systems that can alert them to that, and we shall have to suffer people like Mohammad and Kazmi for a while yet. Smart readers, of course, can find their own alternatives, such as the excellent blogs of Jai Arjun Singh and Baradwaj Rangan.

(Link to Kashyap's post via email from reader Mahesh Rao.)
amit varma, 12:00 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

It's never too late to change your mind

What happens when you have lots of weddings happening at the same time?

You get lots of runaway brides!

Immense joy. Run, run, I hereby encourage them. Find happiness.

(Link via email from Arjun Narayan.)
amit varma, 11:22 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Where your taxes go: 13

Subsidising people's private beliefs.

(Link via email from RJ of Barbad Katte, who asks if it's "time for Pastafarians to ask for a subsidy to build pirate ships." Well, our hard-earned money is spent only on mass delusions, not those built on a smaller scale.)

(Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Also see: 1, 2.)
amit varma, 11:10 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Why Digg might Diee

"The problem with the whole concept of taking advantage of the 'wisdom of crowds' is that crowds have no wisdom," writes Jason Clarke.

Well, the wisdom of crowds applies only when the crowds in question have a certain level of diversity in them. I have no idea if this is so at Digg, but it is not the case in most Digg clones that I have seen, especially the local ones. If sites that depend on the wisdom of crowds do not reach critical mass quickly enough, they tend to get homogenous, with a dominant group repelling all others. In that sense, Clarke's analysis is spot on.

Also, as is obvious in Rediff's message boards, people who administer community sites face an issue of how to control the noise-to-signal ratio. Too much crud, and the serious participants decide not to waste their time there. Quality dips massively. Thus, sensible moderation, or sensible modes of moderation, are a must. For large sites, editorial interaction is often not scalable, and leaving such moderation to the wisdom of crowds themselves works only after a critical mass is reached.

I'm not as pessimistic about social media sites as Clarke is, but one thing I do know: getting a crowd that is diverse enough and keeping the noise-to-signal ratio down are both incredibly hard. Many entrepreneurs seem to be looking at Web 2.0 as a way to make some quick money, but most of them, inevitably, are bound to fail.

(Clarke link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 10:27 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Come to the site, ladies and laddies

Many readers have written in to me with the URL of the Sreesanth video, despite the fact that I had embedded it into my post on him. This is because I have partial feeds enabled, and they read just the first para of that post and assumed that it was the full post. Now, I don't like to have to give only partial feeds, and for two years have given full feeds. But for reasons sensible readers will surely understand and sympathise with, I have no option now but to give partial feeds.

So just in case you see a one-para post that seems incomplete, feel free to hop over to the site and check it out. In any case, in a few days now, my new site should be up, which this blog is one-sixth of, and which will have so many goodies that readers who depend only on feeds will miss out on a lot.

Until then, sorry for the inconvenience!
amit varma, 9:33 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hey, whatever happened to Momma Teresa?

I always thought winning a beauty pagaent was all about admiring Mother Teresa and saving humanity. (And yes, the swimsuit round as well.) Well, old-fashioned me. Check this out:
Miss USA Tara Conner is on the verge of losing her crown after testing positive for cocaine, lustily kissing Miss Teen USA in public and sneaking men into their Trump Place apartment, sources tell the Daily News.
I love the way the article ends:
Ironically, when she [Connor] was competing for the title, she complained that celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton were bad role models, reported.

"I think that they're getting a little bit too much edgy. I think that they are a little bit too risque," Conner said. "I think they need to tone it down a little bit."
Such irony indeed. Almost like the CPI(M) saying, "We care for the poor people. Seize their land instantly!" Heh.

(Link via email from reader Hari Avadhanam.)
amit varma, 11:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Vegetarianism and IQ

This headline intrigues me:
Kids With High IQs Grow Up to Be Vegetarians.
And this line in it baffles me:
There was no difference in IQ score between strict vegetarians and those who said they were vegetarian but who said they ate fish or chicken, the researchers add.
Surely if they're so smart, they'd know that fish and chicken aren't vegetables?

(Link via email from Arjun Swarup.)
amit varma, 8:02 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Manu Sharma is convicted

Good news.

I wonder how much the media scrutiny had to do with this, though. How many cases arouse such media attention? What happens to the rest of them?

Gargling is no cure for throat cancer. I'm glad it gives relief, and I'm happy justice has been done in this case, but our justice system still sucks, and our police is still largely dysfunctional. Can that change? How?
amit varma, 7:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Go, Sreesanth!

Such joy rarely explodes. Yesterday at a gathering at my place, Rahul related a story about how Andre Nel had sledged S Sreesanth and Sreesanth had whacked him for six and followed it up with a tribal dance. Rahul did the tribal dance for me. (Lest the other guests wonder at this, it was before they arrived.) It was a remarkable performance from Rahul, but I thought, surely the boy exaggerates. With my TV on the blink, I thought I'd never find out.

Who needs TV?

And no, the boy did not exaggerate. Watch the video below; even I feel like dancing!

And this is a fuller version, if you want to see the sledge as well.
amit varma, 7:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

More name changes

The Times of India reports that Jabalpur is being renamed Jabalipuram, and that the MP government is "mulling renaming Bhopal to Bhojpal and Indore to Indur." Immense silliness.

And when they all get struck by the numerological bug sweeping through our pop culture, Bhojpal will become Bhojjpall and Indur will become Iinduur.

It is clearly the signboard makers' lobby that is getting these changes made. Who else benefits?
amit varma, 2:17 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Go to a party and work out

After all, it seems that people go to gyms to socialise.

(Link via email from Gautam Ghosh.)
amit varma, 2:10 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Osama bin Laden is dead

The elephant Osama bin Laden, that is. Indeed, the same one I blogged about here.

My favourite line from the report:
Conservationists have criticized the shooting, saying the elephant killed was not "Osama," but a look-a-like.
Heh. I won't be surprised if some armchair analysts now start theorising about how it doesn't matter whether the elephant itself is dead or not, but what Osama stands for will remain a potent force for decades to come.

And whoever named the elephant Osama? And why? Gargantuan curiosity crawls.
amit varma, 7:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Do dogs sweat?

Always, I have wondered. Finally, I know.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the yard. There's a kitty to chase.

(Link via email from Prabhu.)
amit varma, 1:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The biggest social experiment ever

Web 2.0.

No wonder, then, that Web 2.0 is effectively Time Magazine's person of the year.

(Link via email from Ravikiran.)
amit varma, 1:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to know if she loves you

Gaurav Sabnis explains.

By this yardstick, I've heard many guys expressing their love for each other in recent times. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Update: Gaurav also an announcement to make here.
amit varma, 12:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Do not try these outside a swimming pool

Never has swimming been such fun:

(Link via Confused of Calcutta who writes, "I will continue to enjoy YouTube, as long as they let me see clips like this one and this one and this one."

Well, the first of those is the one you just saw above; the other two have been removed! Such it goes...)
amit varma, 1:38 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

What socialists need

Iodized salt.

amit varma, 12:46 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How do they do it?

First, there's The Shower Man.

And then, there's the Stud Surd.

What's the secret?

(Links via separate emails from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 12:40 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Books rule, ok?

Love this ad (click on pic to see bigger image):

(Link via Boing Boing.)
amit varma, 12:01 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What could it be?

Alka Khedekar of the BJP says that this "hurt the millions of people in the country." Gopinath Munde has said that Maharashtra is "already tense and if such trends were not crushed ruthlessly, there is a possibility of serious consequences and even cause a law and order problem. [sic]"

What are we talking about? you wonder. Must be something really serious, no?


(Also read: 1, 2, 3.)
amit varma, 4:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cow v Rhino

Politicians in Nepal are bickering over which of the two should be their national animal, reports IBN Live. An excerpt:
"The rhino is an endangered animal and is unique to Nepal," said NWPP chairman Narayan Man Bijukuchhe.

"It (the cow) is the most common domestic animal and is liked by Hindu and non-Hindu families alike," said Prakash Sharan Mahat, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress (Democratic) party.
If Maoists gave milk, I'd have suggested the Maoist as an alternative, but they do not possess even that one redeeming feature. Therefore, I shall have to express my support for the cow. This is, I assure you, out of concern for the rhino.

After all, it is already endangered. Can you imagine what will happen if the cows get pissed off at them?

(Link via email from Manish Manke.)

(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, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72.)
amit varma, 4:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sonia Faleiro wins CNN Young Journalist award

My good buddy Sonia Faleiro, I am delighted to inform you, has won the runner-up prize in the print/online category in this year's CNN Young Journalist awards. Congratulations to her. Although I might legitimately be considered biased, I think that had the award been given for a body of work instead for a single piece, she would certainly have won the top prize. She's written several stories over the last year that both move and enlighten, and there are two qualities in her work that I admire immensely.

One, she lets the story tells itself. She rarely inserts herself into a story, and is always objective, with no hint of being judgemental or trying to show things through one ideological prism or another. There are no unnecessary linguistic flourishes, and style is slave to substance. When you read one of her serious pieces, you are transported into the story, and forget about the writer, which is as it should be.

Two, her attention to detail is incredible. "Get the name of the dog" is one of the maxims of reporting, and Sonia's stories, especially her profiles, are the epitome of that. (Like this, and this, and this.) With a symphony of telling details, she humanises the people she is writing about, building a world so vivid that we feel that we are there, and that we know those people. I can think of few journalists, anywhere, who do this so well.

My only complaint in all this is that she doesn't write the funny stuff often enough. She's excellent at that as well.

Update: Lest I be accused of not giving out the name of the dog, it's Chorizo. She's a beauty, and she's also got a blog!
amit varma, 3:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, December 15, 2006

Elephant vs Government

This Indian Express report by Samudra Gupta Kashyap tells us of an elephant called Laden that has gone on the rampage in Assam. "It has killed at least a dozen people in two months in different villages of Assam," we are told, and "was subject of discussion in the state Assembly today. [sic.]"

Well, an elephant ain't no Veerappan, you'd imagine, and the government has, indeed, "ordered it done to death." But it isn't that simple.
The law says a “rogue” elephant has to be killed in one shot. But there is a problem. In last three years, the Assam forest department has declared five elephants rogues, but killed just one.

The trouble does not end here: If the shikari doesn’t get Laden before the deadline, the licence to kill lapses. The government will then have to repeat the entire process, which reaches all the way to the relevant Ministry in New Delhi and takes a month to complete.
Why, it may be asked, should a license to kill a particular elephant ever lapse? The answer, of course, is obvious and depressing. And it has nothing to do with individuals who are corrupt or inefficient: such idiocy is written into the DNA of our system of government.

(Link via email from Dijo John.)
amit varma, 6:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Globalisation in a cellphone

This is stunning. And heartening.

(Link via Cafe Hayek, whose reference to that classic essay, I, Pencil is spot on!)

PS: What on earth are yttrium and garnet?

Update: Grrr. I wasn't actually seeking answers (I can Google too, you know!), and the question was for rhetorical purposes only. Anyway, my good buddies Sumant Srivathsan and Gautam John write in to tell me what yttrium and garnet are. Bah!
amit varma, 2:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Time for an upgrade?

The always insightful Joel Spolsky has yet another lovely piece on software here, in which he writes:
People, for the most part, are not playing with their software because they want to. They’re using the software as a tool to accomplish something else that they would like to do.


Unless they’re software reviewers for a living, they don’t really care about the software itself, and the more they notice it, the more annoyed they’re going to be.

Choices, therefore, can be good or bad. They’re good when they support the task the user is trying to accomplish fairly directly. [...] They’re bad when they represent an intrusion into the user’s actual DNA-replication goals. Every few days some crappy software I can’t even remember installing pops up noisy bulletins asking me if I want to upgrade something or other. I could not care LESS. I’m doing something. Leave me alone! [Emphasis in original.]
Precisely. Too much software is too intrusive these days, and I hate it when I'm in the middle of writing a post, searching hard for the precise phrase that will express how I feel (like "immense joy explodes" or "I'm a huge fan of..."), and a stupid bubble pops up saying:
It's time for a completely useless upgrade to a new version of Blubbety Blubbety Blobetty. Would you like to start downloading now? Heh.
And in the time that I've figured out what Blubbety Blubbety Blobetty is, the phrase I was just about to hit upon has taken a U-turn and left forever, and the rhythm is gone, and everything is screwed, and the world is a terrible place. Spolsky is bang on.

Spolsky's larger point is about the difference between the good kind of simplicity -- elegance and ease of use -- vs the bad kind -- a lack of features or power. The bad kind is startlingly fashionable, as he writes here and here.
amit varma, 1:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Linda Goodman hits the road

Well, not Linda Goodman herself, but the astrology bla-bla-bla she represents. Reuters reports:
According to a study by, a Web site that quotes drivers on insurance rates, astrological signs are a significant factor in predicting car accidents.

The study, which looked at 100,000 North American drivers' records from the past six years, puts Libras (born September 23-October 22) followed by Aquarians (January 20-February 18) as the worst offenders for tickets and accidents

Leos (July 23-August 22) and then Geminis (May 21-June 20) were found to be the best overall.
My disdain for astrology is known to my readers, but I might have reconsidered had Capricorns been shown to be the best drivers. Instead, the page with the study results says:
Capricorn is goal oriented. They’re more concerned about the destination than the journey. They feel that the rules of the road are for other drivers to follow so that Capricorns can get to their destination faster.
Pah! This settles it: astrology truly is nonsense.

(Link via email from MadMan.)

(Some earlier posts on astrology etc: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.)
amit varma, 1:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A nation of shopkeepers

The Times of India reports:
With about 11 retail shops for every 1,000 persons, India has the highest shop density in the world.

That's one shop for every 20-25 families. In cities, the density is much higher. Delhi, for example, has nearly 45 shops per thousand persons!
I'm not surprised. Indians take to entrepreneurship easily, some communities more than others. And I wonder how resoundingly well we would have done had these entrepreneurship skills been allowed to reach their fullest expression. For decades, oppressive regulations have strangled business. In spite of that, here we are.

It could have been so much better if we didn't have to fight the odds.
amit varma, 11:35 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

John and Bipasha's 'love relation'

HT tabloid, I have come to realise, is a filter: it filters out all non-verniness and non-purplocity from our stars, and serves up their true cheesy selves. Here's John Abraham speaking of his relationship with Bipasha Basu:
See, the point is that the initial excitement of our love relation is not the same now. Rather we have grown very mature. So, Bipasha and I are not together everywhere, whether it's a film function or fashion show. In these circumstances, rumours of our break-up and my affair with other stars are bound to happen. During world tour I was associated with Mallika Shehrawat and similarly while shooting for Salaam-e-Ishq, my co-actress Vidya Balan became dear to me. I am not so romantic at heart that I keep changing lovers in such short intervals!
A little later in the interview, Johny says:
All my actresses have been very good and I observe different qualities in each of them. As far as attractive body is concerned, I think Udita has a got a fantastic body and she is extremely beautiful too.
I'm a huge fan of observing different qualities. No, but really, I'm sure all these buggers don't speak like that, and some phenomenally talented sub editor is translating Hindi copy or something. Libidinous lava lingers.

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 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, 26.)
amit varma, 10:31 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Stardonic does a star turn

A blogger whose posts I've always enjoyed has anonymously started a blog named Stardonic, along with some pals of his, and it's a hoot. Instantly you must go -- well, open in a new window or tab, don't leave India Uncut! -- and check it out. Some sipperb delights await you, and I'm not referring to the lady in the enticing choli on the top banner. (Ah, cholis!)

For example, from this post I discovered a fabulous quote by a film-maker named Velu Prabhakaran:
My message is for the next generation. Here’s what I want my movie to tell them. Men have boobs just like women do. But women have some extra stuff going on in that area, so their boobs appear fleshier. That’s it. So I want the next generation to ignore boobs. (original link, subs. only.)
That, of course, gives license to this generation to go overboard. Especially with Riya Sen. In a post called Riya Sen Wears Clothes, the lady is quoted as saying:
There are times when this popularity has become so much of a problem for me. I have to handle the situation carefully at such times. There have been several occasions when I have to tackle people who unnecessary get close to me or look into my clothes,”… (original link.)
I'm a huge fan of looking into clothes. I often look into mine to see if everyone is happy. Anyway, in this post, we are told of how Aftab Shivdasani once said, "I am 28 but I look like someone in his 20s." Staggering.

So go and check out Stardonic, and though I can't reveal the name of the blogger friend who's running it ("We don't want our parents to know what we are up to," he writes to me. Pah!), I have high expectations of it.

There are two other new sites that have been brought to my attention recently, and since I'm in a good mood, I'll let you judge for themselves if they're any good. One is Zoppr, yet another Digg clone, but one whose design I like. The other is, which its founder, Rohan Pinto, describes in an email to me as being "an effort to popularise and make visible a range of lesser known languages, traditions and cultures of a part of india called the 'konkan' region, highlighting languages like konkani, kannada, tulu marathi etc."

Starting new ventures involves a lot of guts and much potential heartbreak, and I wish all these chaps the very best of luck.
amit varma, 9:56 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Salman Khan ko gussa kyun aata hai?

DNA reports:
The cops put Salman Khan in a foul mood post interrogation.
Tsk tsk. Sympathy entirely fails to bubble.
amit varma, 9:52 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pulling down the shirt

In an excellent interview by Sonia Faleiro, Jockin Arputham says that the most painful aspect of his poverty was:
The nakedness. For the first three years that I was in Bombay, I would walk with my hands pulling down my shirt. Because the back of my pants didn’t exist. There were two big holes. Even now sometimes, unconsciously, I walk pulling down my shirt.
Read the full thing, Arputham has some fascinating things to say on a difficult (and important) subject: our slums.
amit varma, 5:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Catalogue, catalogue, catalogue!

I'm tired of these art-circuit people going on and on about catalogues. Why can't there be dogalogues?
amit varma, 3:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

My Zune is bigger than your Zune

That's what bad boys say in France. Read this:
When Microsoft announced that it would be taking on the iPod with something called Zune, did its branding team realise that the word translated into French slang for genitalia and a Hebrew term meaning getting laid?
That article, by David Rowan, is on the difficulty people in having in naming new products, and the kind of silly names they often come up with. In my experience, it's even tougher if you need to have a presence on the internet, because you have to then not just find a good name, but make sure that you get that domain name on the internet.

Naming this blog was a massive headache. I wanted a name which would be available both with a .com extension, as well as on Blogspot. I hurried through some 50 names, and India Uncut was well down the list. I am glad I chose it though: it is vastly preferable to one of the other then-available options, Wag the Tree, which I chose during a trial run a couple of months before India Uncut began.

I've even forgotten what that was supposed to mean!

(Link via email from Arjun Narayan.)
amit varma, 2:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

'Daylight robbery'

In a profile of the writer, Iqbal Ahmed, I find that the phrase 'daylight robbery' seems to have originated as a result of the infamous window tax of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Further research reveals this to probably be apocryphal, but even then, it is a story that deserves to be true!

Indeed, the notion that the phrase applies to all taxes isn't far from the truth either.

(CNJ link via email from Deepika Shetty.)
amit varma, 1:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Is there a housing bubble in India?

I have no idea. If you do, feel free to write about it here.
amit varma, 1:01 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Where are the Bob Woodwards of Kerala?"

So asks Abhishek Nair in a comment of his interesting post, "Exporting suicides."

Frankly, the problem isn't that there are no Bob Woodwards. The problem is: Where are the Washington Posts?

Create the environment, and excellence will rise.
amit varma, 12:51 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Evil Atheist Conspiracy

Finally my life has purpose!


(Link via email from Rishi.)
amit varma, 6:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Who is in al-Qaida?"

Well, many people may not know the answer to that, but the chairman of the house intelligence committee in the US should, no? Yet, the notable congressman Silvestro Reyes didn't have a clue. War Against Ignorance should come before War Against Terror, perhaps.

(Link via email from Gaurav.)
amit varma, 6:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Men buying lingerie...

... is always an awkward proposition, even when they're not buying it for themselves. Well, Yahoo! reports:
Specially trained staff will appear in M&S lingerie departments to give shoppers "man to man" advice. Men buying underwear for wives and girlfriends prefer dealing with male members of staff, the chain said.


They will offer tips and advice on all aspects of buying intimate gifts.

An M&S spokeswoman said: "If anyone is embarrassed about talking to women then these guys are on hand to help customers.

"It is man-to-man advice."
This is glorious. So the next time you're confused about the partner's bra size, there will be a bugger standing there in the lingerie section, scaring the chicas away, and he'll take one look at you and instantly know what size your partner wears. Happiness combusts.

(Link via email from Priyadarshini Basu Chatterjee.)
amit varma, 5:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Let me breaaaaaaathe!

For someone like me, the internet is oxygen. I can do little work without it, and begin to feel restless and panicky if I am without access for too long. The last two days, therefore, have been rather difficult. I had loads of work to do, quite apart from blogging, and my Tata Indicom broadband connection, otherwise reliable, gave up on me. My Hutch GPRS was painfully slow, and most of today was spent in furious panic, juggling between trying to find a responsive engineer and finishing the work I had on a connection that took 25 minutes to open an error 404 page.

Well, the rest of the work is done, but I realise that this is my first post of the day, and many loyal readers have no doubt slashed their wrists or defenestrated themselves or other such entirely understandable things. Worry not. I am back to blogging, even though it's still on that stupid GPRS thing, and I shall not let you down.

On the other hand, I have 20 minutes before I leave to attend a dear friend's wedding reception. (Remember the date today?) I shall try the best I can, but my lungs are giving out...
amit varma, 5:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The end of the world is nigh

And it's all because of cows.

I can't believe there are people who blog about other things.

This snippet grabbed my attention in particular:
[I]t takes a staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.
That explains, I'm sure, why so many Indian milkmen dilute their milk in similar proportions.

(Link via separate emails from Gautam John and reader Aboli Salvi.)

(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, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71.)
amit varma, 10:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The only good that comes from communism

ICICI and Sangli Bank are merging. And here's what a statement from the CPI's Central Secretariat says on this matter:
It is very distressing to see that foreign banks are allowed to take over Indian banks. This will adversely impact the job security and other rights of the employees.
This is why there should always be communists in India: for comic relief.

(Links via email from Lahar Appaiah, who blogs on it here.)
amit varma, 6:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Who's the real Manmohan Singh?

Dr Jekyll or prime minister Hyde?

The Rational Fool's post is spot on, in my view. As I mentioned in this WSJ op-ed, Manmohan Singh's government liberalised some of the economy in 1991 because they were forced to: the balance-of-payments crisis left them with no option. But once that crisis was past, the liberalisation slowed down, as the special-interest groups got to work.

Recently I read some speeches made at a seminar on price controls in the early 1980s, and was surprised to find Manmohan sitting firmly on the fence, doing nothing to indicate any displeasure at the status quo. He is a good man, and I'd never question his integrity, but, alas, he is no lover of freedom.
amit varma, 5:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Who will punish the Bajrang Dal?


What is the context? you ask. Well, here's how the Hindu puts it:
A bunch of [Bajrang] Dal volunteers, many of them young women collegians, armed with sticks and lathis, forced their entry into several colleges in the city [Ahmedabad] and beat up youths allegedly "flirting" with young girl students.

They also went around several public parks and other entertainment zones and beat up "young couples" sitting in corners.

Leading the group was the Dal city unit convenor, Babu Bajrangi himself, and as he claimed, the main target was the Muslim youths "whose only job is to trap Hindu girls into marrying them and change their religion."
This is crazy, loonies like these should be the subject of mockery by the people around them, and actions like this should be firmly punished. But they live in the state where Narendra Modi won the state elections handily after the riots of 2002. And as that would indicate, sentiments like the one expressed by this Babu Bajrangi fellow would find a lot of support. Thus my pessimism.

(Link via email from Ali.)
amit varma, 5:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

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