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.

Monday, October 31, 2005

"More of a zigzag than a superhighway"

So where does feminism stand today? In an excellent essay in the New York Times, adopted from her forthcoming book "Are Men Necessary?", Maureen Dowd examines just that question, and concludes that women have come a full circle since the 50s. Good stuff, go read.

Update: Prachi Parikh writes in to point me to a New York Times story that confirms my darkest fears: women like dogs more than men.

Sources inform me that my bark is quite fetching, though.
amit varma, 7:17 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Harriet Miers and the internet

John Fund writes in the Wall Street Journal:
As President Bush prepares to make a new appointment to the Supreme Court, the lessons of the failed Miers nomination are still being absorbed.

One that deserves study is how a lightning-fast news cycle, a flat-footed defense and the growth of new media such as talk radio and blogs sank Ms. Miers's chances even before the megabuck special-interest groups could unload their first TV ad. Ms. Miers herself has told friends that she was astonished at how the Internet became a conveyor belt for skeptical mainstream media reports on her in addition to helping drive the debate.
Quite. The internet reduces information asymmetry, and empowers consumers. (In the context of politics, that would mean "the people.") And blogs are one of the most useful tools in the mix.
amit varma, 4:49 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The football is boring? Bring on the chicks

The Telegraph reports:
The marketing team at Zee sports, the channel that has bagged the exclusive rights for all major domestic tournaments for the next ten years, has hit upon a novel idea to woo crowds back to India’s near-empty football stadiums, thereby weaning Indians off their staple diet of cricket. If the sight of a group of suitably underdressed women, cheerleading and gyrating wildly at the same time cannot breathe fresh life into the waning interest in Indian football, marketing whizkids at Zee would like to believe nothing else would.
Heh. Read the full report. The girls, it seems, are named the ZeeBras, and the report says, "During the Mohammedan Sporting-Fransa match, a scuffle broke out when the crowd demanded more ZeeBra action."

The only thing that can take people to a football stadium, in my view, is the football. Underdressed women are all too common nowadays.
amit varma, 2:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The myth of form

So much talk in sport is about form. This one is "out of form," that one is in the "form of his life," and so on. Well, Matthew Hayden gives us an interesting way of looking at it when he says, in a feature by Andrew Ramsey:
[F]orm is a myth, it's dealing with information gathered in hindsight. You just don't lose talent.
Read the full piece.

(Link via The Surfer.)
amit varma, 1:52 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dalvi or Deole

Who is Mumbai's mayor. Mid Day points to a government website that doesn't seem to know.
amit varma, 1:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A round-up of news after the blasts

A brief round-up of news and views after the Delhi blasts: The Times of India writes about how a "resilient Delhi" is coping with the blasts. PTI reports that at least 22 people have been detained in connection with them. ToI reports that "[a]n intensive combing operation has been launched to track down Pakistani nationals illegally residing in and around the city." The Union cabinet has reportedly been told that "Pakistan-based and supported groups" are responsible for this, while Avijit Ghose and Pradeep Thakur estimate that "[s]ince 1994, over 50,000 have died in terrorist-related violence in India." The opposition assails the ruling government, while protocol reasons force Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, to be largely invisible for quite a while after the blasts. Meanwhile, the Delhi police is kept on their toes by a "string of hoax calls." And for what it's worth, George W Bush condemns the blasts.

Among Indian bloggers, Nitin Pai and Primary Red of Secular Right India reaffirm their support for a hard line against terrorism. I agree wholeheartedly, while adding that coming down hard on terrorism and promoting other measures for peace, especially economic ones, aren't necessarily contradictory courses of action.
amit varma, 12:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Do you have a Yahoo account?

If so, be careful.
amit varma, 4:31 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The medicine that makes the disease worse

You'd think that expanding a road in a congested area would help things, wouldn't you? Well, sometimes it can actually make congestion worse. Naveen Mandava explains why.
amit varma, 4:24 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Getting lost in the mela...

... is a good idea. Neelakantan's Blog Mela is up, do check it out.
amit varma, 4:09 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bomb blasts in Delhi

Serial bomb blasts have struck New Delhi, and at the time of posting this, at least 30 deaths have been reported. Here are some early reports from BBC, NDTV, ToI, and Rediff. More to follow.

Update (October 31): I have a round-up here on media accounts of and reactions to the blasts.
amit varma, 7:44 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The labour aristocracy

While pointing to an editorial in the Times of India, Yazad Jal informs us:
[A] classic unintended consequence of leftist pro-union policies is that the currently employed benefit at the cost of the unemployed.
Bang on. In fact, that disconnect between intent and outcome is manifest in virtually every economic policy India's leftists support. (Like this one.) Those who support the left because their intent sounds compassionate and rosy would do well to study the outcome of leftist policies across the world over the last century.
amit varma, 7:18 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Conversations are like injections

In Indian weddings, that is. Ravi Venkatesh has more.
amit varma, 7:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Just kidding

No one takes me seriously when I'm serious. But when I'm joking...

I'm sticking with this, blogging away madly, even if it doesn't pay in monetary terms. I hope you stick around as well.
amit varma, 7:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Miles to go...

I've just finished the bulk of the unpacking at my new flat. (And by "my new flat" I mean my new rented flat, to answer queries from readers if I've bought a house. I'm just a poor blogger.) There were over 90 separate items that travelled in the truck, and 30 of them were cartons full of books. I haven't read at least half those books, and intend to start catching up. That may mean less blogging, or even no blogging. In fact, hey, that's a good idea. Bye.
amit varma, 7:00 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, October 28, 2005

Not blogging but moving

In a few hours time, I'll be moving house. The entire day -- Friday, October 28 -- will go doing that, so I will probably not blog until Saturday afternoon. Be patient, be brave. It's only a few hours.

The headline of this post, by and by, is a play on a moving poem by Stevie Smith: Not Waving But Drowning. Enjoy.
amit varma, 1:15 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Still a long way to go

Pranab Bardhan writes in YaleGlobal:
What about the hordes of Indian software engineers, call-center operators, and back-room programmers supposedly hollowing out white-collar jobs in rich countries? The total number of workers in all possible forms of IT-related jobs in India comes to less than a million workers – one-quarter of one percent of the Indian labor force. For all its Nobel Prizes and brilliant scholars and professionals, India is the largest single-country contributor to the pool of illiterate people in the world. Lifting them out of poverty and dead-end menial jobs will remain a Herculean task for decades to come.
Yes. But "[l]ifting them out of poverty and dead-end menial jobs" is bad phrasing, in my view. They will lift themselves out of poverty and blah-blah if we enable them to do so, and stop condescending to them. We can begin doing that by abolishing the license raj, reforming labour laws, and removing all other barriers to business (and, thus, employment), as I've mentioned here and here. For the sake of the millions still in poverty, we need to liberalise more, more, more, and faster, faster, faster.

(Link via email from Nandini Ramnath via Arts and Letters Daily.)

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 5:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A matter of education

If there's anything l'affaire IIPM proved, it is that consumers of private education need to be empowered with more choices, and quality choices at that. What better way than to let foreign universities into the country? But the Left, needless to say, is protesting that, as they do everything from the Western world.

No pun intended, but when will they learn?
amit varma, 3:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Care for a fruit?

According to this bizarre feature by Indiatimes, Madhuri Dixit is an apple, Rani Mukherjee is a banana, Ayesha Takia is a cherry, Aishwarya Rai is a custard apple, and Malaika Arora Khan is a strawberry. The text that accompanies these revelations is rather, um, never mind.

Meanwhile, what kind of a fruit are you? I seem to be a strawberry. Malaika...
amit varma, 1:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Qazi Tauqeer's India

Dhiraj Nayyar writes in the Indian Express:
Markets have brought with them not only a huge range of goods, services and TV channels, but also a culture of individuality, opportunity and merit, quite distinct from the more parochial culture of caste, region and religion which ran and, in some places, still runs deep in India, especially in the functioning of institutions of the state. This is no surprise. The guardians of the state are only human. And humans are fallible, which makes the state fallible.
So what does Qazi Tauqeer, a winner of Fame Gurukul, have to do with all of this? Well, Nayyar makes the point that just a couple of decades ago, when Tauqeer was born, young people in India had nowhere near the array of choices and opportunities that Tauqeer, and all of us, have today. A liberalising India has created many more platforms for talented people, and we are finally moving towards a meritocratic society. There's still a long way to go, but we'll get there.

(For those Fame Gurukul watchers who point out that Qazi wasn't the best singer, and Rex and Arpita and blah-blah were better, let me reassure you that Rex and Arpita and blah-blah will also earn lakhs through live shows after the exposure they've got, as so many of the Indian Idol finalists did after that show picked a winner. It's not a zero-sum game, and there's enough there for everyone with talent.)
amit varma, 12:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Hook 'em up

Via Avinash, I discover this bit of information, with a picture that fairly shook me.

Do you like dogs?
amit varma, 12:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

When I named my blog...

... I didn't have this in mind.
amit varma, 12:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A breakout moment for Indian bloggers

Do read this excellent story about the IIPM affair by Mark Glaser in Online Journalism Review.

And in case you haven't heard, IIPM is in trouble with UGC as well.

Background on the IIPM affair: 1, 2.
amit varma, 11:40 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The right to harassment

The Right to Information Act, a tool to empower common citizens, is fantastic in theory. In practice, it depends on the government cooperating with the people and working efficiently. As this article in DNA shows, that's easier said than done.
amit varma, 2:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saif Ali Khan's make-up tip No. 1

amit varma, 1:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

RIP, Nirmal Verma

Hindi novelist Nirmal Verma is dead. Dev Kumar has a tribute here, and some links.
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Statehood and dignity

Mahmoud Abbas cannot have both, explains Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal, in a piece analysing the "almost matchless barbarism into which Palestinian society has descended in recent years."
amit varma, 12:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Flowers coming together

No more. Everyone's kissing in Bollywood, and thank goodness for that. Why the fuss, though?
amit varma, 11:50 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Better off dead

Sometimes I think that the politicians we elect are even more venal than the popular sterotype perpetuated in Bollywood films. Check out the first few paragraphs of this piece by Flavia Agnes, in which she recounts the attitude of Maharashtra's legislators towards bargirls.

(Link via email from Arun Simha.)
amit varma, 11:44 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Listening to the pulse of nations

Rohit Gupta writes in worldchanging:
An entire generation of Indians grew up thinking that America was like MTV, but I suspect that is not how you’d like to be seen. Americans must be equally misled into thinking that India is a lot like Bollywood, an equally scary notion if it is true.
Check out his full piece, "Diplomacy in D Minor," an interesting essay on how the voice of a nation, if there be any such thing, is expressed through its music. I don't quite agree with his assertion that "[t]housands of Indians still harbor the notion that California is a ghost-hotel somewhere in America, courtesy the Eagles," but that's a minor quibble.
amit varma, 11:33 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Hungry kya?

Head on over to MadMan's food gallery. Much lust and desire will happen. If you are in Bangalore, which, sadly, I am not, it can even be sated at Shiok, the fine restaurant MadMan runs. I vaguely remember having had this there once. Remarkable. The best beef of our times, and an admirable broccoli.
amit varma, 11:25 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Noam Chomsky, the capitalist

One should judge a man by his actions, not his words, right? Well, by that yardstick, Noam Chomsky is a quintessential capitalist. Peter Schweizer explains.

Note that I heartily support capitalism. But Chomsky, to paraphrase what Victor Davis Hanson once said in another context, hates it in the abstract but loves it in the concrete.

(Link via Yazad Jal.)
amit varma, 11:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Out of place, like a fish out of soy sauce

Gawker learns how to use chopsticks. Nice.
amit varma, 10:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Décolleté, centros, côté, underside

Quiz question: what are the four words in the headline types of?

For the answer, click here.

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 10:18 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The world is round

Umberto Eco proves it. Nilanjana Roy bears witness.
amit varma, 2:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

I'm a talking duck

It's not implausible. Not any more than the assertion by KK Paul, Delhi's police commissioner, that Delhi is a safe city. Needless to say, I am convinced by neither his assertion nor his arguments in support of it. And I am mystified by his accusing the media of publishing "provocative photographs." Hello?

(Link via Secular-Right India.)
amit varma, 2:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"She sat down in order that we might stand up"

RIP, Rosa Parks.

(Headline quote by Jesse Jackson.)
amit varma, 1:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Look who's complaining

Mid Day reports that Praful Patel, India's civil aviation minister, is not too happy with the service at British Airways.

May we suggest you get your act together first, Mr Minister?
amit varma, 12:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Out-of-the-world sex

It's a problem for NASA.
amit varma, 12:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Getting bloggy with it

What better way is there to promote your blog among Indian bloggers than the Blog Mela? Neelkantan B is hosting the next Blog Mela, and if there is a post you'd like to nominate, either by yourself or by someone else, rush over and do so. The Blog Mela schedule is here.

Also, I'm informed that IIM Indore is having a blogging competition -- the details are here. Check that out if you're interested.
amit varma, 11:52 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, October 24, 2005

India Uncut Nugget 19

It's funny how much America can influence countries just by their pop culture. You can do a lot more with pop culture than dropping Patriot missiles. You can get away with so much more. Because it's just so appealing. How many girlfriends I lost because of John Travolta, because the girls were looking for a guy who could dance like Travolta? It's amazing how much we were infiltrated with no resistance. "Saturday Night Fever," "Star Wars," it's like we were living parallel.
Ziad Doueiri, director of West Beyrouth, in this interview by Anthony Kaufman. (Link via Chandrahas Choudhury's fine review of the film.)

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 5:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Don't insult BPO workers

I'm a little tired of people equating BPO with the slave trade, and BPO workers with coolies. Take this article, for instance, which cites "the first major study of labour practices in Indian call centres," and compares them with "Roman slave ships." That is a ridiculous analogy, and it insults the people who work in BPO companies, who do so out of their own free will. They are not forced into taking up those jobs, and they do so presumably because they find it better than all the alternatives. They are aware of the working conditions that will be offered to them, and they can check out any time they want. Are these critics implying that BPO workers have made the wrong choices, and that they know better? This kind of condescending, self-righteous mindset is, sadly, rather too prevalent these days.

When I was in college, in the early 1990s, it was unheard of for a graduate to get a job without having any additional qualifications. Today, an English-speaking graduate in any major city of India can easily find employment, contrary to a decade ago. The choices for young people have expanded, and that is a fantastic thing. It is a pity that there are still regressive people around who, instead of wanting to expand those choices further, bemoan the improvements that have taken place. Ivory towers are a perfect environment for self-delusion.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.

Update (October 25): Nasscom responds to the survey.
amit varma, 4:10 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How things change

Narayana Murthy says on BBC's Hard Talk (transcript in the Indian Express):
[B]etween 1981 and 1991, we had tremendous friction to business. At a point it took us around three years and about 25 visits to Delhi to import a computer worth $50,000, it would take us about 10 days to get approval to travel outside India. We couldn’t hire consultants in quality, brand equity etc. from outside India. It took us about a year to get a telephone line.
And still Infosys survived that period, and then made it big. Outstanding.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 3:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Suhaag raat experience

Jai Arjun Singh is benefiting from it.
amit varma, 3:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Hey, that looks familiar

Sunil D'Monte catches Bombay Times up to no good. Nice expose, but, um, what's new?

(Link via email from Rohit Gupta.)
amit varma, 3:17 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Fiesty, fun Mumbai

Who says Mumbai is a boring city? Consider these headlines from Mid Day:

Peon runs up Rs 1.45 lakh sex chat bill
Failed sprinter uses skill to steal mobiles
'I assaulted policemen with a rod'
Telgi poked fun at investigating officers

Such excitement.
amit varma, 2:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Beating China

The Economic Times reports, in an article headlined "India beats China:"
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) may be better off than India when it comes to economic growth, FDI inflows, exports and the snapping up of exploration and sourcing deals in third countries rich in oil. However, India has finally made it to a list where China doesn’t figure at all.
And what hallowed list is this? The article continues:
Time’s list of the 100 best English-language novels penned since the magazine’s origin in 1923 lists two books by authors of Indian origin and one where India figures in the title.
Well, whatever. Anyway, here's the Time Magazine list, of which I'm ashamed to report that I've read just 17, though I own 34. That's bad in more ways than one.

(Link via Prufrock 2.)
amit varma, 1:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ambi Mama beats Mani Mama

Anand Ramachandran reports:
A survey has revealed that ‘Ambi Mama' is the leading relative among Tamil Brahmin families worldwide, with six in ten families having one of their own (a 60% repsesentation. Apparently, Ambi Mama held off stiff competition from Mani Mama (with 55% representation) and Baby Chitti (39%) for a well-deserved win.


Mani Mamas all over the world watched in anguish as the final results were announced, plunging them into gloom. “It's no fun being a Mani Mama anymore”, said Mani Mama. “ Maybe if I change my name to ‘Ramesh Anna', I will have a brighter future”, he pondered pointlessly.
Read the rest of the piece here, marvellous stuff. It's doing the rounds as an email forward, and I got this source after a Google search -- hope it's the right one. It certainly is a very funny blog.

(Hat tip - Nandini Ramnath and Suresh Venkat.)
amit varma, 12:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The flaw is not the charm

My colleague in Cricinfo, S Rajesh, makes some excellent points in his contribution to the debate on technology in umpiring on Wicket to Wicket.

Earlier posts in that debate: Intro, 1, 2, 3.
amit varma, 12:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Celebrating Gmail

I'm a huge fan of Gmail. I was slow to convert because of that thing called the ego -- I wasn't in any of the early batches of invitees, and felt left out and offended. But sometime around the middle of last year I got an invite, got hooked, and have stopped using all other email since. What do I like about it?

Well, the storage, hyped up though it is, is just a small part of the attraction. The things I like about Gmail:

1] The conversation view: This is huge. Earlier an email conversation involving a few people and many iterations could involve hundreds of emails, all of which stacked up in the inbox, required many clicks to view, and were confusing to follow. With Gmail, it's all there on one page, in an easy-to-use interface. In fact, this is what makes Gmail unique (so far), and gives it an extra dimension.

2] The labels: This is a vast improvement on the folder system that other email providers have. In a folder system, I put an email into a folder and it's disappeared there, out of the inbox, and it is then restricted to that space. But conversations are dynamic, evolving things, and cannot often be classified into just one category. Gmail allows me to attach multiple labels to a conversation while keeping it in the inbox, and I can, thus, access it later in a variety of ways.

3] The search: Yes, yes, I know other email providers also have their own search thingies, but they aren't remotely as good as these guys. This functionality, combined with the use of labels, has led to my using Gmail as a storage facility for research material and interesting links or articles I find on the web.

I could go on and on about the many little things that have impressed me so much, like how fast it is and so on, but I'll just urge you to try it out for yourself, if you haven't already. I like it so much that I have, in fact, configured one of my Gmail accounts for use as my office mail, and find it far easier to handle spam and keep track of evolving conversations involving hundreds of threads than my colleagues do. And it's easy to configure it in such a way that your gmail address is never displayed, only your office id is.

And why am I blogging about Gmail today? Well, I came across this nice post by Paul Buchheit, the man behind Gmail, on email in general and his creation in particular. Good stuff.
amit varma, 11:31 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The periodic table of bloggers

Thennavan has some fun with the elements.
amit varma, 11:28 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bundle of greens, invigorating embrace

South Indian film songs rock -- especially when translated. Manoj has some superb translations on his blog: 1, 2 and 3. Much hilarity, especially in the third one, which has pictures with it.
amit varma, 11:21 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Blog Quake Day

If you are a blogger, here's an excellent initiative that deserves your support: the Blog Quake Day. This is a Desi Pundit brainwave that aims to use the collective power of the blogosphere, which we have seen in action recently, to help in disaster relief. Good plan.
amit varma, 11:03 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, October 23, 2005

India Uncut Nugget 18

The vast majority of the press is not interested in covering what is actually happening. They are interesting in covering what they think people want to think is actually happening. Everything is sensationalized. In 1999, it was sensationalized on the positive side, and in 2002, it was sensationalized on the negative side. It's never exactly accurate. As it turns out, accuracy can be quite boring. And quite boring does not sell newspapers and magazines.
Bo Peabody, the founder of Tripod, in "Lucky or Smart? : Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life."

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 11:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

No free lunch, says Rahul Gandhi

The Telegraph reports:
... Rahul [Gandhi] visited two villages in Ranga Reddy district to see for himself how the micro-finance scheme of an NGO — Swayam Krushi Samstha — was working. He spent over two hours in Bandasomaram, about 45 km from here, where he surprised all by opting to sit on the floor with the villagers and sharing their drinking water.

“He also had tea and biscuits with us,” said Padma, an activist.

The first-hand experience of how small loans can change the lives of the poor and the disadvantaged had strengthened his opposition to subsidies and freebies, Rahul said. “If they are able-bodied and healthy, there should be no free lunch at all. It is bad to give anything as dole.”
Why am I blogging this? Well, I'd wondered in an earlier post what kind of thinker he was, and this gives me reason to be optimistic. He is almost certainly a future leader of the country, if only because of the family he's from. And reportage like this interests me far more than some of the details earlier in the article, when we are told that later in the day Gandhi had "a meal of mutton biryani with a side dish of chicken."

Well, actually, I don't mind that also but I do mind that only.
amit varma, 11:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

More IIPM coverage

Business World has an excellent story up (requires registration) in which they conduct their own investigations on IIPM and uncover the tallness of yet another series of IIPM claims. Outlook also has a story on the subject, by TR Vivek. And bloggers haven't been quiet either -- Angelo Embuldeniya writes to one of the professors IIPM claims to be associated with, and reproduces her reply. Heh.

In case you just got on to this story, you can read the background, and updates, here and here.
amit varma, 1:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Of low-cost airlines and Marxists

Many hours have gone by without a post from me, and you need to blame it on low-cost airlines. Why so? Well, there was a quiz in Ahmedabad conducted at MICA for which Gaurav asked me to team up with him. Normally, the cost of going in terms of time and money would have counted for more than the benefit -- the sheer enjoyment of being part of a good quiz. But competition, and the recent entry into the market of low-cost airlines, meant that a one-way ticket between Mumbai and Ahmedabad could be got for as little as Rs 900 (about US$ 20). So I could hop over there yeaterday morning and hop back early today morning, for a fare provided by a private airline that is similar to the one that the Railways, run by the government, would charge me for a journey of equivalent comfort and far longer duration. Nice.

We came third in the quiz, by and by, after topping the elims. Many good teams from around the country were there, so it was a good enough result. (One always says that after the event, doesn't one?) I also sat in on a fascinating workshop by a Marxist professor that had me gasping in disbelief. "I must write about this," I told myself. And I will, soon.
amit varma, 1:00 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, October 22, 2005

On behalf of all Bappi-da fans...

... a legally notarized email.
amit varma, 6:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Design without dogma

Paul Rudnick writes in the New Yorker:
Day No. 1:

And the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light. But then the Lord God said, “Wait, what if I make it a sort of rosy, sunset-at-the-beach, filtered half-light, so that everything else I design will look younger?”

“I’m loving that,” said Buddha. “It’s new.”

“You should design a restaurant,” added Allah.
Heh. Read the other six days, they're even more fun. Funniest piece ever, and so on. Or maybe just this week.

(Link via email from Abhishek Mehrotra.)
amit varma, 6:00 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Hey, that's a fun survey to do

Rediff has this mysterious line in one of their pieces:
Nearly 70 percent of women the world over unknowingly wear the wrong bra size.
For the life of me, I can't imagine how Rediff knows this when the women don't. Who goes out and, um, measures these things?
amit varma, 12:38 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


Outlook reports:
Almost all scientists agree that it is difficult to predict the exact time and place where a quake might strike. Yet, scientists at the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, have predicted that a 5.0 quake may occur at Koyna, in Maharashtra, by the end of December 2005.


Three Richter 8 quakes have also been predicted by some seismologists in the Himalayan region, which includes Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Nepal, UP, Bihar, Assam and Sikkim.
I have no idea how credible the business of forecasting earthquakes is, but let's assume for a moment that it is. So what can we do now?
amit varma, 12:02 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, October 21, 2005

The most human of leaders

Rahul Bhattacharya watches Sourav Ganguly make a fine hundred at Rajkot, and thinks about what came before and what lies ahead.
amit varma, 11:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Uncle Ghost

Well, here's one way to make a living.

The story seems funny at first, but, as happens so often, this funny tale is also a sad one.

(Link via email from Varun Singh.)
amit varma, 11:49 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Got that one wrong, did ya?

A few months ago I had linked to a sad story, "Chennai astrologer foresees death, commits suicide". Well, today on Sify I learn, "Indian astrologer lives after predicting own end." The report says:
Hundreds of people flocked to a village in central India on Thursday to see if an astrologer who forecast his own death would indeed die as predicted.

But the 75-year-old man survived the day.
The piece ends by informing us that "in the past, crowds have beaten up astrologers when their predicted demise failed to occur." Heh.

Previous posts on that psuedo-science: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
amit varma, 3:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The hammering and the hunger

The fifth of Sonia Faleiro's fine series on Mumbai's bargirls: "My Love Encloses A Plot Of Roses."

The first four: 1, 2, 3, 4.
amit varma, 3:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

LK Advani knows...

... what Manmohan Singh really wants. But does Singh know that?
amit varma, 1:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Empower the umpires

I join the discussion on Wicket to Wicket about technology in umpiring with this post: "Doing justice to the players."
amit varma, 1:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bang bang bang

A new blog has called up recently called indiacorporatewatch, and oh boy, there's some hilarious stuff on there. Two photo essays (1 and 2) on IIPM, as well as this fine post with one of the funniest gifs I've seen in ages. Such fun.

Getting more serious, Kaashyapeya posts a "Statement from the Bloggers of Bangalore and online petition in support of freedom of expression." And News Today has a report on the controversy.
amit varma, 1:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Two views on Draupadi

Mallika Sarabhai says that Draupadi "is the epitome of the 21st century woman." Ravi of RaviSez disagrees.
amit varma, 1:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Power cut?

Just the time to go buy some milk.
amit varma, 4:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The season to be jolly

Shoe Fiend writes:
It's that time of the year again! When you leave home for work in the dark and return in the dark. The nip in the air is more like a giant piranha bite and as usual the heating has conked out and the gas company is pretending not to understand what you are trying to tell them. But who cares about all of that when there's Christmas shopping to be done? Tis the season to be jolly and fill up that shopping trolley!
Read the rest of the fine post, aptly headlined "Ho ho ho."

(Link via email from Ammani.)
amit varma, 3:52 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wicket to Wicket

There's no subject that lends itself to passionate discussion as much as sport -- and for Indians, that means cricket. I introduce to you, thus, Cricinfo's newest blog, Wicket to Wicket. It's essentially a blog for debate and discussion. Every couple of weeks, we take up a topic, figure out a bunch of cricket writers who would have interesting opinions on the subject, and let them discuss it threadbare. At first, everyone lays out their positions, one a day. Then they freely discuss whatever they want to on the subject. We've just begun it, and it'll be interesting to see how it goes.

Here's my introduction
of the blog. Here's my lead-in to our first topic of debate, technology in umpiring. And here's the first post in that discussion, by Sambit Bal.
amit varma, 1:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The nadir of Hindi cinema

Gaurav Sabnis writes about the 1980s.
amit varma, 1:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Of Pinterian pauses and bread pakoras

Chandrahas Choudhury has a fine post on Harold Pinter, and himself, at The Middle Stage. Some very useful links in there, though I enjoyed the post largely for the charming first-person account in its first half.
amit varma, 1:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

And what was that about alliances?

Thalassa_Mikra, she who authored this expose on IIPM, does some more fine investigative journalism, and uncovers even murkier stuff. Just read this.

IIPM will no doubt delete many of the claims they have made on their website. But bloggers across the world have taken screenshots, and kept the links of Google cache versions of those pages. And more investigative journalism is no doubt ongoing. The truth is out there, and it is stronger than the lies.

If you're new to this issue, read these: 1 and 2.
amit varma, 1:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The importance of competition

Vir Sanghvi writes in the Hindustan Times:
The general view among politicians is that the media are accountable to nobody. This is plain wrong. Individual journalists are constantly being held accountable by editors and most newspapers are far more concerned about accuracy in reporting than they were, say, ten years ago.

The reason for this is simple enough: competition.
In the rest of his excellent article, Sanghvi argues that the state of the Indian media is better than ever before, and will improve as competition increases and readers are empowered with more choice.

I agree. And that's precisely why I favour the unhindered entry of foreign media into India.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 4:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Turn back, waves!

Business Standard evokes the story of King Canute to point out how the government of India's recent protest against Google Earth is a bit over the top.
amit varma, 3:40 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Shut yer phones or I'll have yer skins for a winter coat"

Sonia Faleiro spills the beans on Vikram Seth, Aamir Khan and his pet possum Heera. Nice beans, suitably baked.
amit varma, 3:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

There's no getting away now

Subra Srinivasan writes in to point to an interesting new innovation by a couple of students of IIT Madras that will help detect when bowlers are chucking. Nice, but a bit too elaborate and high-tech for me. I prefer a solution that Subra himself proposed a few months ago, and that I'd blogged about on 23 Yards. I suspect that the device that is eventually used to measure, in real time, how much bowlers straighten their arm will have much more in common with Subra's idea than the one from the IIT guys.
amit varma, 2:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Beggars can be choosers

If they're Madonna, that is.
amit varma, 1:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Guardians of the law

Power corrupts, as that old cliche goes. Especially where are no checks on it, and not enough accountability. So is there even the slightest reason to be surpised by this? Or this?

In other words, it isn't just the cops that did 'em -- it's the whole damn system.
amit varma, 12:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Munnabhai Quizmaster

Guess who is tipped to host "Mission Ek Crore," the latest KBC clone on the block.

What do I have to do to take part in one of these? I don't care if it's downmarket and all that, I'd love a chance to make some money. Blogging doesn't pay, you know.
amit varma, 12:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A disaster in progress

Govindraj Ethiraj writes in Rediff about the Airport Authority of India, which he says has failed "on every conceivable service delivery parameter that one can think of." Good detail, from personal experience.

By and by, Govindraj also runs a blog: Dateline Bombay.
amit varma, 12:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How things change (and how they don't)

Ashis Chakrabarti writes in the Telegraph:
It would be laughable if a political party today were to organize street protests against the use of computers in public sector organizations. But Bengal’s left parties once did just that. I recall a large leftist rally outside the Reserve Bank of India office in Calcutta in the early Eighties in protest against the introduction of computers in the RBI. The computers, the protestors said, were a capitalist evil that would rob people of their jobs. The same leftists today showcase their government’s success in promoting the information technology sector.

Bengal’s leftists have come a long way since the days of anti-computers protests. If today’s younger lot want to have an idea of what the leftists did in those days, they need only to look at Mamata Banerjee’s brand of politics.
Read the full piece.

Much as the Left has progressed when it comes to West Bengal, where it is in power, it is as regressive as ever when it comes to the nation, where it has power but not responsibility. It's a sad state of events.
amit varma, 12:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bloggers aren't scared of no random chihuahua

What am I talking about? Here, read this.
amit varma, 12:33 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Most expensive milk ever?

IANS reports:
It takes Rs.740 to produce one litre of milk and Rs.77 to churn out a single egg at an average dairy and poultry farm under the Jharkhand animal husbandry department (AHD).

The high production cost can be arrived at if one crunches numbers for staff salaries, establishment cost and other figures supplied by the department itself.

Never mind if the market price of milk is between Rs 15 and Rs 18 per litre and of one egg is around Rs 2.
Needless to say, it's the poor taxpayer -- you and me -- who foots the bill for this shocking inefficiency. When will we learn?

(Link via email from Aadisht Khanna.)

Update: Naveen Mandava writes in:
In every kind of comparison of private and government service, you will find the establishment costs are completely discounted for or their subsidies are not accounted for. It will be good to see a lot more of facts like these emerge that compare private and government cost of provision.
amit varma, 12:29 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Organic women? Nah

Some men prefer dolls.

This is a strange story -- and a sad one, too.

(Link via Marginal Revolution.)
amit varma, 7:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Putting one and one together

Here's a fine non-sequitur by Prahlad Kakkar:
Of course, Indian men are terrible lovers. You see, Indian men don’t have the benefit of being seduced by an older woman.
Darn, so that's the secret!
amit varma, 6:42 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dare to be different?

Don't have a slogan. Jared Sandburg writes in the Wall Street Journal about how company slogans that are "intended to unify and inspire the employees" end up "distracting the staff and customers."
amit varma, 5:42 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bloggers as public regulators

Sruthijith KK has a nice piece on blogs and the IIPM fracas in today's DNA.

Also, blogger 42510 has some more dope on Malay Chaudhuri, in addition to what I'd linked to here. Heh.
amit varma, 2:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Indian helicopters but not Indian pilots

When people are dying and in urgent need of relief, this is such pointless posturing on the part of Pakistan.

Here's Nitin Pai's take on the subject.
amit varma, 1:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Well done, Satyen Nair

How many people would have been apathetic towards this?
amit varma, 1:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Drink a lot of water

... and then go play football.
amit varma, 1:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

There's no "us and them"

There's only "us." That's the crux of Shashi Warrier's award-winning essay on secularism in the Indian Express.
amit varma, 1:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The egg and the golden sunrise

J Ramanand extends a lesson for quizzers into a learning about life.
amit varma, 1:00 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, October 17, 2005

That's right, blame the consumer

Sudhir Kumar, the director of the Mumbai branch of the Airports Authority of India, defends the state of the city's airports:
You know, it’s more difficult to maintain the international terminal. We have a very large number of labour that travels to the Middle East. A large number of them have never seen a wet toilet in their lives! There are people who spit inside our airports!
Read the full interview, it also contains the mysterious rhetorical question, "We can’t ask people to shift while they use the toilet, can we?"
amit varma, 2:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The most dangerous human trait

For once I agree with George Monbiot. Arguing in Outlook that secular societies are better than religious ones, he writes:
We know that the most dangerous human trait is an absence of self-doubt, and that self-doubt is more likely to be absent from the mind of the believer than the infidel.
Quite. Read the full piece.
amit varma, 12:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Defaulting on your loans?

Babli's coming.

No, seriously, I rather like that piece, by Sucheta Dalal, on how entrepreneurs are setting up recovery companies that operate transparently and in a professional manner. About time. Let them gundas go find something else to do. And let free enterprise flourish, hand in hand with the rule of law.
amit varma, 11:45 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Less plastic...

... more potholes. Check out what Mid Day has to report on one of the unintended consequences of Mumbai's ban on plastic bags. Who would have thought... ?
amit varma, 11:42 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Such indulgence

A suggestion to my readers: while surfing over to the Times of India site, please desist from liquid intake. I snorted coffee violently from my nostrils when I saw this:

And here's another piece of advice for you: don't indulge in ... [snort!].

Now I've got to get these coffee stains off my keyboard.

Update: Moving from the English to the politics, Sandeep has some background to this story.
amit varma, 11:24 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Look ma, there's a missile coming at me

The Telegraph reports:
A missile-launching system dropped from an Indian Air Force plane targeted at imaginary terrorists nearly wiped out two defence ministers, an ambassador and the country’s almost entire military top brass.

The anti-tank gun, fixed on a military vehicle, landed metres from defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov while they watched joint military exercises in western Rajasthan.


Journalists and soldiers were shown on Russian TV running for cover but Ivanov, a former spy and close friend of President Vladimir Putin, and Mukherjee remained seated.
Hmm. Had the gentlemen been a little bit unluckier, imagine the many conspiracy theories that would have sprung forth. Thankfully, they escaped.
amit varma, 11:09 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fighting for freedom

The Indian Express has a nice excerpt from a new biography of its founder, Ramnath Goenka: "Warrior of the Fourth Estate," by BG Verghese.
amit varma, 9:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


Dorothy Wade writes in the Sunday Times:
Great writers from Freud — "the intention that man should be happy is not included in the plan of Creation" — to Philip Larkin — "man hands on misery to man" — have painted happiness as an elusive butterfly. But ordinary people believe they are happier than average (an obvious impossibility) and that they'll be even happier in 10 years' time. If true, it would be good news because research shows that happier people are healthier, more successful, harder-working, caring and more socially engaged. Misery makes people self-obsessed and inactive.

These are the conclusions of a burgeoning happiness industry that has published 3,000 papers, set up a Journal of Happiness Studies and created a World Database of Happiness in the last few years.

Can scientists tell us what happiness is?
Read the rest of Wade's excellent piece to find out.

(Link via Arts and Letters Daily.)
amit varma, 9:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Towards the Singularity

Glenn Reynolds writes in Tech Central Station: "[W]e've become so accustomed to rapid technological progress that we may notice the signposts in passing, but we tend to miss just how quickly they're zipping by."

The latest signpost: robot driving.
amit varma, 9:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Strange bedfellows

Shocking as it may seem today, Mahatma Gandhi and Chairman Mao were once spoken of in the same breath, Ramachandra Guha reminds us.
amit varma, 1:51 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

No more foundation stones

Darn, what's a politician to do? The Times of India reports that Sonia Gandhi has "shot off an 18-point 'code of austerity and ethics', laying down the dos and don'ts of public behaviour for party leaders."

amit varma, 1:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dr Malay Chaudhuri's education

K of Press Talk directs me to an outstanding post by thalassa_mikra that uncovers some juicy dope on Malay Chaudhuri, the founder of IIPM. The most interesting part is that while standing for elections, Dr Chaudhuri had declared his assets and his educational qualifications, and those records are available in the public domain. His assets don't even include a car, but I won't make insinuations based on that -- walking is healthy. It's his educational qualifications that interest me. The page that thalassa_mikra dug up summarises them thus:
Ram Krishna Mission Jamshedpur High Secondary 1953
Presidency College, Calcutta University BA (Hons) 1957
Berlin School of Economics M.Sc. 1962
Berlin School of Economics Ph.D. 1963
Berlin School of Economics D.Sc. 1970
With just a little digging, thalassa_mikra discovered that the Berlin School of Economics was founded in 1971.

Good work. There's also more dope on IIPM on Rashmi's site, here. Isn't it the mainstream media that should be doing this kind of investigative journalism? Do you still think blogs are just online diaries and nothing else?

For the full IIPM story, you could read my first post on the subject, "A question of principles," which I've been keeping up to date , as well as Desi Pundit's post here.

Update: Sumeet Kulkarni, who is currently in Germany, elaborates on the German education system here, throwing even more doubt on the claims of Dr Chaudhuri (or is it just Mr Chaudhuri?) that he got his degrees there. Intriguing stuff, though slightly irrelevant if the Berlin School of Economics didn't even exist before 1971.
amit varma, 12:40 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, October 14, 2005

Getting naughty in bathtubs

I wonder where Indiatimes got this information from.
amit varma, 11:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Blooker Prize

No, that's not a typo in the headline -- the latest literary award is one created by called The Blooker Prize, which is a prize for, well, blooks. What's a blook? According to the competition site:
blook n. blook. A printed and bound book, based on a blog (cf. web log) or website; a new stage in the life-cycle of content, if not a new category of content and a new dawn for the book itself. cf. The Lulu Blooker Prize, ("The Blooker"), a literary prize, founded 2005, for blooks. [der. Eng. book, a bound collection of sheets of paper; blog (abbrev. web log, an internet journal, diary or personal website)]
One of the judges for the first Blooker Prize is Cory Doctorow, the man behind Boing Boing, and that fact alone gives a certain amount of credibility to the prize.

Maybe Julian Barnes should start a blog or something now. Give up on the Booker, dude, this is where the action is.
amit varma, 11:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Indian Institute of Ponytail Management

Heh. Hurree Babu rocks.

Annie no longer likes ponytails, though. Bummer.
amit varma, 9:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ten little what?

Agatha Christie may not quite have been politically correct, but does that give us the right to change the titles of her creations.

Yes, that photo does rock, doesn't it?
amit varma, 6:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Once was poetry

Now is graphic novels. Check out Peter Schjeldahl's excellent piece in the New Yorker, in which he says that "[l]ike life-changing poetry of yore, graphic novels are a young person’s art, demanding and rewarding mental flexibility and nervous stamina."

In case you've never read a graphic novel before, I can't recommend a better book to start with than Art Spiegelman's "Maus." There's beauty and wisdom in every frame of that remarkable book.
amit varma, 6:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Back to the Jurassic Age

A misstep is okay as long as it doesn't cripple you. The Indian Express writes about Mumbai airport, and presents a solution to its systemic problems that I wholeheartedly support.
amit varma, 1:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Back to hell

Kalandar Sheikh, a senior police inspector in Mumbai, decides to respect a brothel's property rights. The property in question: three minor girls.

Read this. Disgraceful.
amit varma, 1:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Too much Chivas Regal

Only that can explain people voting India the second-sexiest nation in the world, in a survey sponsored by the makers of that fine scotch whisky.
amit varma, 1:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Funny scores over sexy

At least in Bollywood.
amit varma, 1:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The NDTV story on IIPM

The NDTV story I'd mentioned here finally aired today morning at about 11.30 am. It summed up the story pretty well, though the focus, I think, could have been more on the uncovering of IIPM's mistruths and their strong-arm tactics after that than on bloggers' right to voice their opinions. Rashmi and Gaurav weren't merely stating opinions, but were pointing to unpleasant facts. Blogs aren't just personal diaries, as that fallacious stereotype goes, but an extension of the media, and these blogs, and others since the scandal broke, have done exactly what mainstream media should have been doing in the first place: uncovering the truth.

In the case this is the first you're hearing of this, you can read about the case in my post, "A question of principles," which I'm still updating periodically as new developments take place. Also, Desi Pundit has been tracking the issue comprehensively.
amit varma, 1:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Funny guy turns serious

One of the good things about the IIPM controversy has been that while trawling all the blogs which have posts on the subject, I came across a rocking blog called The Renegade of Junk, maintained by someone who calls himself Gawker. He wrote three superbly satirical posts about IIPM (1, 2 and 3), and now he's got serious with this investigative post that looks into IIPM's so-called alliances. Fine stuff.
amit varma, 10:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

I'm not Malkhan

After being denied bail, Mohammad Shahabuddin is reported as saying, "Why should I surrender... Am I [D]aku Malkhan Singh?"

The logic is flawless, no? Only Daku Malkhan Singh should surrender.
amit varma, 6:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Sometimes, it’s better not to know the truth"

Born to a prostitute, sodomised at 10, and then again at 11, castrated soon after and turned into a eunuch. That's the story of Shankar aka Neelam, brilliantly told by Sonia Faleiro in the fourth article of a fine series: "Gali No. 2, Street Despair."

Earlier instalments: 1, 2 and 3.
amit varma, 5:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Watch Mumbai Live on NDTV

Tonight at 10.30 pm. Alaphia writes that NDTV is doing a story, and having a discussion, on this whole IIPM v Bloggers issue. A number of bloggers, including me, gave some soundbytes, and Rashmi will probably be appearing for the discussion.

In case you've just heard about the debate, you can read up about it on my earlier post, "A question of principles," which I've been updating regularly. Desi Pundit has been tracking the matter very well: just see how many bloggers have spoken out in support of Gaurav and Rashmi.

Update: Sorry, just heard that the telecast has been postponed. I'll keep you updated about when it's expected to air.
amit varma, 4:47 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Chicken or egg?

Or noodles?
amit varma, 2:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

India Uncut Nugget 17

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Steve Jobs, in an immensely moving and inspiring speech he made at Stanford in June this year.

(Link via email from Abhishek Mehrotra a few weeks ago.)

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 2:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Two kinds of bad reviews

In a conversation with Mini Kapoor, Vikram Seth says:
I don’t like the kind of review which says, Lata marries so-and-so. That’s very unfair. The other kind of review I object to is that which uses your book as a kind of trampoline to bounce off into the reviewer’s own obsessions.
Both types, sadly, are rather common. India does have a handful of fine reviewers, though. Interestingly, they all blog: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
amit varma, 2:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Narya, rat, monkey, and cobra

Just some of the names Bal Thackeray has for Narayan Rane. He doesn't like Sonia Gandhi either. More here.

Previous posts on the RaneMan: 1, 2, 3 and 4.
amit varma, 1:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


"Viagra saves endangered species," says the headline. "Humans are endangered?" I wonder.

Then I click and find out the wonderful unintended consequences of that fine drug. Keep it up, Viagra.
amit varma, 1:49 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

No more lame duck BJP presidents

Pramod Mahajan defines the ring without throwing his hat into it.
amit varma, 1:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


MadMan blogs his meal. Superb pictures. That grilled fish looks like the best ever in the illustrious history of grilled fishes. Sigh.
amit varma, 1:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The issue isn't dead

When bloggers fight for justice, they don't give up after a post or two. The Indian blogosphere's battle against IIPM is ongoing, and updates are continuously happening at Desi Pundit. Besides this, my post on the subject has also been updated, and more will certainly follow. This ain't over.
amit varma, 12:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fighting over books

Hurree Babu is not too happy with the Booker Prize being given to John Banville's "The Sea." It needed the casting vote of the chairman of judges, it seems, after there was a two-all tie.

At least no one stormed out, as happened here.

I'm ashamed to report that I haven't yet read any of this year's Booker-shortlisted books. How ill-read I am. I must spend less time blogging.

Update: Nilanjana Roy has a nice piece in Business Standard, elaborating on Hurree Babu's opinion. Do the two of them know each other? Hmmm...

Update 2: Karthik Narasimhan points out via email that Banville himself seems to agree with Hurree and Nilanjana. Once again, hmmm...
amit varma, 4:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Pondy or outsourcing?

There's controversy over the real reason for these sackings.
amit varma, 3:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Anorak? Only when it rains

Via Notes and Stones, I discovered this nice dictionary of quizzing. Good stuff.

I had a nice quizzing weekend last week, by and by. On Friday I went for a business quiz in Mumbai, though I hadn't convinced anyone to partner me. So I sat for the elims alone and qualified for the final. Young Gautam Bastian was spotted in the audience, duly inducted, and we combined well to win handsomely. Ace quizzer Dhananjay Shettigar, who also reached the final, has an account here.

The next day I took part in an entertainment quiz in Pune. Much fun was had, but alas, no brace happened, and my team finished second. It was some consolation that one of the people I lost to was a fellow libertarian, and not some leftist loony. A fuller account, by the last winner of Mastermind India, is here.

Enough about myself. No more personal posts for the next 63 days.
amit varma, 3:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cobras, Draculas, Skinless Skin

Condoms from China are doing really well in Gujarat. Why so? Well, because it's garba time! (Link via email from Arzan Sam Wadia.)

It's not all naughty business, though. True love also blooms.
amit varma, 3:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The next American president?

John McCain is on a roll.
amit varma, 3:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A break? Not quite

Yesterday was the third calender day since I began blogging that I had no posts at all on India Uncut. Why so? Well, for one, I was rather ill, resting at home with the worst case of the common cold recorded in human history. And second, whatever time and effort I could manage to go online, I was rivetted by the developing story around the stand that Gaurav Sabnis and Rashmi Bansal, two fellow bloggers and friends of mine, have taken against IIPM. For the full story, click here. I've been updating that post regularly, so do read the updates as well. Desi Pundit is also tracking it.

I shall resume normal blogging soon, but will keep an eye on that story for new developments.
amit varma, 12:44 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, October 10, 2005

A question of principles

Many of you no doubt know about the latest controversy that has broken out in the blogosphere, about Arindam Chaudhuri and IIPM. In case you don’t, a quick summary: A few months ago Jam Magazine, edited by Rashmi Bansal, did a story exposing some of the claims made by IIPM, the educational institute run by Arindam Chaudhuri. It was a terrific piece of journalism: professional, thorough, and relying entirely on facts that are verifiable by anyone.

After that happened, some of the IIPM staff barged into the Jam office. In Rashmi’s words, they “did not offer any new or material facts, other than argument.” Then she got a legal notice from them. All fair so far. They have a right to go to court, and they need not have worried if the facts were on their side. But were they? See what happened next.

A number of blogs sprung up overnight defending IIPM and defaming Rashmi and Gaurav Sabnis, a popular Indian blogger who had linked to Rashmi's article and added some facts of his own. Ludicrous rumours were spread about Aaj Tak, the news channel, having done a sting operation and having caught Amity, a rival of IIPM, giving money to Rashmi to do the story. Rashmi posted on the matter, and filthy comments were left on that post – you can read them for yourself and see the class of the people who left them. Also, Gaurav received a hilarious legal notice, which he reproduced on his blog – it was hilarious at the time, that is.

Then it got serious. IIPM happens to be a client of IBM, Gaurav's employer, having purchased a huge bunch of laptops from them. (In fact, they are a company with serious money clout, and are one of the biggest advertisers in India.) So what would you expect them to do? Well, Gaurav relates that on his post on the subject. It’s bizarre and worrying stuff – read it.

I’ll sum it up for you: to save his employer from a dharam sankat, Gaurav found himself faced with two courses of action – to delete his posts and apologise; or to resign from the company. What choice would he make? Isn’t the practical thing to do obvious?

I spoke to him yesterday, when his choices became clear, and asked him what he would do. As a friend concerned for his well-being, I wanted to advise him to not do anything in a hurry. But he had made up his mind. Here is, more or less as I remember it, what he said to me over the phone:
You know, we bloggers are always writing about principles, about freedom of speech, about standing up for what we believe in, for the truth. It’s very easy to write all that. But here I’m being tested on those principles in real life. If I don’t stand by those principles now, I will lose all respect for myself.
And so Gaurav Sabnis resigned from IBM today.

Already comments are appearing on blogposts gloating about this. Well, congratulations to the victors.

But the blogosphere hasn’t given up the fight. Desi Pundit, which has become a focal point for Indian bloggers, intends to carry this forward, and all the bloggers who have weighed in are listed in their post on the subject. Kaps has sounded a battle cry that many bloggers have responded to; Press Talk have an expose of their own here; Patrix challenges IIPM to sue him; Abi has an interesting suggestion on how to take this forward. Harini, Charu, Amrit, Thallassa, Ravages and many others have pitched in. (Bloggers in America are also beginning to pick it up.) They are not scared. All of these bloggers have understood that the choice that they have before them is the one that Gaurav confronted. They've chosen to go with their principles. They know whose side the truth is on.

Please visit all their posts and read what they have to say. And if you share our outrage, then feel free to voice it. If you're a blogger and post on it, please let the guys at Desi Pundit know, so they can add your name to the growing list of bloggers who will not let injustice pass.

Update: Global Voices has more: "Defending freedom of speech."

Update 2: Here are some more posts on the subject, from Ravikiran Rao, Kitabkhana, Naveen Mandava, Nitin Pai, Gawker, Sunil Laxman, Jai Arjun Singh, Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta, Falstaff, Secular-Right India, Aditya Kuber and Arzan Sam Wadia. More updates are ongoing at Desi Pundit.

Update 3: More posts in support of Gaurav and Rashmi from Sepia Mutiny, Kunal Sawardekar, Ashish Hanwadikar, Suhail Kazi, Anand of Locana, Mandar Talvekar, JAP 2 and, heh, Gawker again.

Update 4: More posts on IIPM from Kingsley Jegan, Ashutosh Jogalekar, Tifoc, Krishna Moorthy, Shanti Mangala, The Unknown Indian, aNTi and Jose Castillo. Instapundit and Naveen Mandava have more. Also, Varna has been served a 'legal notice' similar to the one Gaurav had got. By email, with no digital signature, claiming damages of Rs 175 crore. Yeah, right? Ever seen a headless chicken dancing?

Update 5: The Hindustan Times carries the story here, and Mumbai Mirror excerpts from a couple of blogs here. (The Mumbai Mirror link's gone dead, so here's a pdf, via Pankaj Gupta.) More MSM coverage is due to follow.

Update 6: Gaurav's professor at IIM Lucknow weighs in. He elaborates on IIPM. Worth reading.

Update 7: More write-ups from Gawker, The Great Bong, Jeff Ooi, Kiruba Shankar, Sandeep, Stochastica and Dan Gillmor. Kamla Bhatt mentions it in her podcast. Meanwhile, Varna fights back and Arka Mukhopadhyay takes a bold initiative. Committee to Protect Bloggers has also taken it up.

Update 8: Alaphia informs us that NDTV is reporting on this issue tonight on Mumbai Live, at 10.30 pm. A number of bloggers, including me, have spoken to them. Watch it if you can. Update 8.5: Sorry, just heard that the telecast has been postponed. I'll keep you updated about when it's due to air.

Update 9: Gawker, whose been doing some outstanding blogging during the last few days (1, 2 and 3), digs deeper into IIPM's 'alliances' and uncovers some suspicious stuff. Good stuff. Who is this guy?

Update 10: Transmogrifier carries on from where Gawker left off and finds out more about IIPM's "web of deception." Rajesh Advani gives us a story with a moral, Puneet uncovers how IIPM are trying to manipulate search engines and here's a hilarious parody. Also, Arzan Sam Wadia has created an online petition: if you support Gaurav and Rashmi, do sign it.

Update 11: Hurree Babu has some advice for the Indian Institute of Ponytail Management. And Annie Zaidi gets a bit disillusioned with ponytails.

Update 12: K of Press Talk directs me to an outstanding post by thalassa_mikra that uncovers some juicy dope on Malay Chaudhuri, the founder of IIPM. Excellent investigative journalism. And oh, Rashmi Bansal has more dope on IIPM's claims.

Update 13: Amod Paranjpe, a lawyer, has an excellent analysis of this case on Mandar Talvekar's blog.

Update 14: Sruthjith KK of DNA has a story on the subject here. Also, blogger 42510 uncovers more dope on Malay Chaudhuri here.

Update 15: Glenn Reynolds quotes from the DNA article here (on Instapundit) and here.

Update 16: Thalassa_Mikra carries out some more investigations into IIPM's 'alliances', and uncovers some shady stuff.

Update 17: Indiacorporatewatch has some hilarious posts on the subject: 1, 2 and 3.

Also, Kaashyapeya posts a "Statement from the Bloggers of Bangalore and online petition in support of freedom of expression." And News Today has a report on the controversy.

Update 18: Business World has an excellent story up (requires registration) in which they conduct their own investigations on IIPM and uncover the tallness of yet another series of IIPM claims. Outlook also has a story on the subject, by TR Vivek. And bloggers haven't been quiet either -- Angelo Embuldeniya writes to one of the professors IIPM claims to be associated with, and reproduces her reply.

Update 19: Do read this excellent story about the IIPM affair by Mark Glaser in Online Journalism Review. And in case you haven't heard, IIPM is in trouble with UGC as well.
amit varma, 9:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

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