Saturday, April 29, 2006

Reservations in School, Colleges and Jobs

The issue of reservation has come to the forefront again, with students (medicos) protesting in Delhi. It reminds me of the first Mandal Commission that was passed and implemented by VP Singh government. The students have a right to protest, because these actions reduce the total outlay of seats available to the 'forward communities' or open quota. But, they forget the principles behind which the reservation was first proposed. It is quite true, that the present Government or current lot of politicians do not care too much of the impact of such resolutions, but only look at it as a vote gathering machine.

I for one support the concept of reservation, in the education system, jobs and political representation. Yes the system is not perfect, and the way it is implemented also is fraught with loopholes. But, if you for one moment stop and think of the problems the caste based society has created and still perpetuates in India, you will do a second take on the concept of reservation.

My case is a good example of people who are in the society will survive inspite of reservations and quota systems. I am from the 'forward community', what ever that means. And so, i am not entitled to support or benefit of lower entry point into education systems. I, however, made it through the education system, inspite of scoring lesser than desired marks. If it werent for the reservation system i could easily have made it to the a good college in the city. But to help people who were left out, the colleges were running 'evening colleges', made more money, and were able to bend the rules of the 'reservation law'.

But. more importantly, i think, i stood to benefit from a changing times in India. Thanks in part to the Govt of times, lead by Rajiv Gandhi, to try and computerize the economy and system, i rode the computer wave to success. At no time, during this process, was i ever given the glimmer of hope that i will succeed or that things will work out. I had to fight the battle for access to college (although i would have settled for a postal degree) and also attended a lot of interviews for different job oppurtunities. At no time, inspite of the despair and limited oppurtunities, did i ever feel, that i was deprived of something because of the reservation system.

The current system of reservation shows no mercy to the poor, only to the ones from the backward communities. And, one critical aspect that the caste system imposes a barrier in the rural Indian setup, doesnt exist in the urban society. In India, i mean the big cities of India, the caste system seems non existent, however, the same is still prevalent in full force. Literacy rates, economical status and access to Government support does not provide enough impetus to break the system. Till India, can fully address the law and order problem, where common citizen, and i mean everyone, big, small, rich, poor and irrespective of which caste or tribe they belong to, can get full right and access to justice, system like reservation are the only way out.

And having lived in the US, i can testify, the same system exists there and is called the 'affirmative action', although on a very small scale because of the very same reasons - access to justice. It is a myth that everyone in the US have equal access to power. And that should give an indication to India, that irrespective of the progress in justice system and democratic power, inequalities will prevail.

I believe and support a good reservation system. It needs to be tweaked, and should be tailored to meet the specific needs of the community. It can be modified to provide full monetary and protection of the law to access education and jobs. But i can see no reason, today, to eliminate it. I have always stood this stance, with my family and friends who all, except for a select few, who oppose the system.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I am special !!


I finally got an invite to Yahoo Mail. I mean the new one. And it looks cool. I have been drooling over it, after reading reports, and yahoo support sites about this. Registered myself a couple of times at the beta site to get an invite for this. And i actually registered the first time, atleast a year ago !!

Man, there must be something special with this beta mail program. I wonder if it is going to crap out on me. Well, i dont think so. If past experience is an indicator, yahoo has always delivered. Since i first started using yahoo over 10 years ago, i have stuck with it. Yahoo wasnt the first online email that i had, it was netscape, but i soon got myself registered on yahoo, and there has been looking back. I tried the google thing, even the email thing, but i really found nothing great. The yahoo search experience to me, is so much better. I use google only if i am researching stuff, and i cant find it on yahoo, and invariably those times, i dont find anything relevant on google either.

So today is a special day to try out something new. Not sure of all the features. Need time to play around with it. But since 360 has taken control of my life, mail has really become an also-ran. Maybe its time i kicked it up a few notches.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

till travel do us part....

Here i am sitting in the airport lounge, yes, yet again, waiting for the boarding call of my flight to Frankfurt, and then enroute to India.

My job, requires me to travel between India (Chennai) and US (Washington DC). As the person in charge of the operations in India, i need to be here and thanks to the same responsibility, i need to be in DC at the home office too. This gives me the unique oppurtunity to have the best of both worlds. Eat authentic burgers (chicken though) at the different burger joints in the US, and garam masala dosa, chutney sambar, at Saravana Bhavan in Madras. Drive on the right and and left side of the road, Although this usually referred to as right and wrong side of the road by my good friends here in the US. I correct them, saying we in India, "drive on the correct side of the road".

Freezing winters and steamy summers have very little impact on me. Although personally i am little affected by the increased UV rays in the US. As a political beast, i also found that crooks roamed the halls of law-making, just as freely as they did in India, and i was quite comfortable poking fingers here as i used to do in India. I hate to generalize, and i found that people here and the people there, have the same problems and similar issues, however the cultures are different and therefore the basis of decision making is quite different.

Born in India, i spend more than half my lifetime growing up there, and then spend more than a third here in the US. Now i am quite at home here as well as in India. Well having a home in both countries, makes that more easier. I have made the integration of the two cultures a personal issue, i have two children, one an american (since he has born in the US) and the second an Indian, since she was born in India.
I do, however, have only one wife !!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tit for tat

Who ever said travel was boring ? Well, i think they must have not seen the finer parts of the travel. I have had a hectic 25-30 days here in the US and am about ready to head back to Chennai. But this time, i had the oppurtunity to travel, travel a lot. There were some bright moments during the course of the travel, the highlight being the trip to meet Vicks at Ann Arbor, and low parts being the 3am trips to the airport, which are more than an hour away, to make sure that i get to the flight on time.

Well before i start rambling about sweet nothings, i must narrate two funny things that happened during this frequent travel circus. The first incident was at Chicago, about a two weeks ago. I had just landed on my way from Grand Rapids, enroute to Washington DC. It was early morning, 6am or abouts. Thanks to the magic of timezone, i had boarded the flight at Grand Rapids, MI at about 6am, but arrived in Chicago O'Hare airport at 5:45am. So anyway, i make the routine trip to the restroom or bathroom. I do have to point out here, that we in America, call these restroom for a reason. Anyway not to talk about gory details, i was resting in the restroom, when a lady walks in to the restroom, and says 'excuse me', loudly enough to draw the attention of an otherwise empty restroom.
I hear her having the conversation with another Gentleman, and she explains that she has to use to restroom, because the women's area is closed, and how she will miss the flight and everything. Well, i guess the Gentleman gave her the permission, not that this lady was in any mood to listen otherwise. She had to go. So she quickly came and settled in the stall next to me. Now, i did find it weird for a moment, but then quickly dismissed it and we went our seperate ways.

Last week, i was returning from Detroit, this time, and flying into Washinton Dulles again. Since i had another early morning fight out of Detroit, i was dressed in a TShirt, but was wearing a decent set of trousers. The plan was to change in to formals in the airplane or soon after i land in DC. Since i was fast asleep in the plane, i missed to the oppurtunity to do the switch, and had to execute it in the airport restroom, so that i could drive straight to work. As soon as i got out of the plane, i located to the closed restroom, and walked in and closed the stall, stripped of my Tshirt, hung it on a hook, and then reached into my bag for my dress shirt. As i was doing this, someone else walked into the stall next to me, closed the door and sat down. As i bent down and picked up my dress shirt, i could the legs of the person sitting in the stall next to me. And i noticed a freaky thing, this guy, had nail-polished every single nail on his toes, and was wearing a funny slippers instead of shoes. I was think, 'what a wierdo', then i thought, oh man, dont tell me, is it the same lady from Chicago, oh man whats up with all the ladies these days ? Soon, i heard more noises, more ladies in the restroom, conversations between a mom and kid.
Oh my god !!
What the hell !! Did i just do that ? No it cant be.

I had managed to change into my shirt, tucked in and all ready to go. But how do i exit ?
So i just stood there, for sometime, for things to quite down.
I must have stood there for a lifetime, which lasted all about 2 minutes. And then opened the door, and walked straight out. As i did that i readied myself for the following:
- high shrieking sounds
- slippers and sandals thrown in my direction
- cops outside the door

What i encountered instead was a lady, directly in front of me, adjusting her sweater (nothing indecent), she didnt even look in my direction, even as i walked by her, apologizing. There was no one else, and the entire episode would have gone unnoticed, but for a grandma and her grandchild trying to make their way into the restroom, both of them did a doubletake to ensure that they were walking into the correct restroom.

As i walked out, i too confirmed the sign outside, which said 'women', but my legs were walking me, the fastest they had done in a while.

Well, all i have to say is, 'tit for tat'

Monday, April 17, 2006

Medha Patkar

During the initial stages of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, initiated almost exclusively by Medha Patkar, i doubted her sincerity in the matter, and thought she was another person into create problems for the government of the day and take the tribals and villagers to be displaced by the new Narmada dam, for a ride. Its been a long fight for her.

I dont completely agree with her. I believe that India still needs dams big and small to help with power generation and irrigation. The country even after all the advancements in nuclear science and space research, we are still very dependent on monsoon for agriculture. It all good and dandy to say that we are one of the fastest developing countries in the world, and another thing to last out a couple of years of bad monsoon. Agriculture development and production still plays a big role in the direction in which the country will progress, cause it still is about 40-50% of the GDP. It has come down from the time i used to study economics, when it was around 70%.

Medha Patkar has a point. Development cannot come at the cost of lives of people. People are not dying, because of this dam. But the dam is surely eliminating the way of life as they once lead. Again, its not like they are being reduced to a life of poverty, but they are being reduced to a life of dependency. At first they were depending on the land, but it was their own. Now they have lost their land have to depend on some other form of livelihood.

Finally the Supreme Court has spoken. It has granted the Prime Minister the power to negotiate. I hope that the PM is able to offer these people a good deal. And for the sake of all, i hope Medha Patkar gives up the effort after that.

Medha Patkar ends fast

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Unclear Iran

What is wrong with a democratically elected government doing what it deems fit for the benefit of its people ? Well i can think of several reason why not. The most important being that no country lives in isolation on this planet. So actions taken by it, will impact and affect others around.
And so, there are consequences of nuclear Iran in the middle-east and also in the bigger Asian region.

However, that said, the dictates of the Nuclear regiments are mandated and controlled by a handful of countries. And only two countries have successfully broken into this tight circle. One is Israel and the other is India. The possession of the technology to make the bomb, though exists with a few more countries, Pakistan being one of them. So now Iran must ask the question, why is it ok for these countries to have it and not me ?

Israel has had the bomb for the longest period of time. The possession of which has resulted in its more aggressive stance in the middle-east in terms of solving the crisis that has been bleeding this part of the world of about half a century now. It has also thwarted all attempts by its neighbours to attempt to master this technology. Although this is common knowledge, no one questions or raises their finger against this infraction. Why, because it has the solid backing of the USA.

India, a recent pariah, now considered acceptable because of the economic powerhouse it is turning into, has possessed this technology since '74. India on the one hand pushes for global disarmament, but has also been equally adamant about its aquisition of the bomb. I, being an Indian, see perfect reasoning and rationale in this approach. However, the world around me is not seeing the same picture.

Back to Iran, my concerns are primarily, the reasons why they need the bomb now. The only reason they could possibly want it, would be to counter Israel. Because in the past, Israel has shown that it is willing to take the fight into other's territory. But they are not thinking straight, because this fight of Palestine is not going to go away, just because you strong arm and play bully. Israel is adamant and will not back down on its stance, and it has the unflinching support from the US.

I give up, this going in circles and circles and circles. The main thing, is i am not so unsure that Iran having the bomb is a bad thing. In all the time since the bomb was discovered, it has been used only twice in a theater of war, in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Since then the bomb has acted as a deterrent, right or wrong. However, i am torn at the idea of simply everybody and anybody possessing the bomb. But then again, the bomb itself has become old technology, we have better methods of terror and killing. On 9/11, we had a demo of how terror can be struck in the minds and hearts of people without a bomb.

And the most important question of all, should the US go to war, because of this ? Again, a unilateral step ?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Moirang - April 14 1944

I first heard of Moirang, in the quiz show, organized by Siddhartha Basu, long before we started getting these 100s of channels. The question he asked was 'Where did the soldiers of Indian National Army, first raise the Indian flag on the Indian soil?' The answer was 'Moriang Kangla', in the border state of Manipur, in the northeast India.

First, we had studied about World War I, II, French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the American war of independence, the India's satyagraha, the Dandi March, the 'Quit India' andolan, but the history of INA and Subhas Chandra Bose, was relegated to a small chapter here and there. Nothing about this heroic, even if misguided as some might claim, action was highlighted or talked about.

During WWII, Subhas, or Netaji, as he is commonly referred to, created the Indian National Army. He left India, to fight the British, by joining hands with the Japanese and Nazi Germany. The Indian National Army at that time, based in Singapore, marched through the Malaysia, and Burma, to fight with the British soldiers in India. This entire zone of battle was being managed by the British, since they were the pre-dominant colonial power in these parts during that time. I understand the many things that Hilter did, but he did do a good turn by waging war against Britain, because if it wasnt for that fact, the Empire, where 'the sun never sets' would have grown in power. And remember, friends who are quick to blame Hitler for the genocide in Europe. The so-called right thinking and democratic countries of that time, did not raise a finger to stop the atrocities. They began fighting only when the military expansion of Hitler began threatening their existence and span of control.

I didnt know that the INA had ever warred the British, and more still, had even set foot inside the Indian soil. The country has honored these soldiers, by retaining the name, and calling the present army, as INA, and crediting Netaji for founding it. He may have joined the wrong side on the war, but he was fighting for a right cause. A sad fact of the politics of that day, is that here was a situation, when Indian soldiers were fighting each other, one set doing their duty as soldiers of the Empire, and the other attempting to free their motherland from the clutches of the Empire.

But all said and done, i am not unhappy that we won our freedom through the route of satyagraha and the non-voilent route. This makes us special. But the country is fooling itself, if it thinks the contribution of people of Netaji, Bhagat Singh and others who fought the British through other means didnt not weaken the spirit of the Empire.

Moirang is special to me. I hope to visit this place one day.

A memorial for Netaji
State gifts INA museum to Netaji

Monday, April 10, 2006

Katie to bear Tom's child in silence

I came to read about this story, after focussing on the word silence. Of course i may not have paid as much attention if the story line read, 'Anamika to bear John's child in silence'. As i clicked the link to read the story, i was at first wanted to press the back button, the thoughts that were predominant were, what do i care ?

Anyway, just before i was about to read the story, i was saved by my favourite TV channel, CNN. Amongst all the important things in the world, they had found time to talk about Tom and Katie. Ok, so Tom is not an average male. In fact, to sidetrack a bit, have you noticed, he is aging now, but still manages to carry on that boyish. I am sure girls and women, will have a different opinion all together. Ah, i am just jealous. So CNN, throws the tag line, so that they can take a break for advertisement. And that helps me. I quickly open up my bloggar, to start my blog. I manage to find a picture of Tom, to even spruce up my writing.

The article and the CNN news piece do talk about the Scientology's concepts of silent child birth. Dont ask me how ? But then we are all so used to the hollywood depiction of child birth. The lady has to yell and scream, no other options are even remotely acceptable, and if ever showcased, then it is by some independent movie, and not available to the mainstream audience. In bollywood and its variants in the south, also dont have anything different to offer. I was in one child birth, and things were not so loud, fortunately or unfortunately, it started as natural, but quickly ended up on the surgeon's table. I did sit through that operation too, and allowed my to have a glimpse of the most beautiful thing in the world, a baby coming out of the womb. And it wasn't easy to for the surgeon to get to the womb, it took close quite a while, after the started the slicing of the skin and flesh, to get ready for the 'delivery'.

It appears finally after reading the whole story and listening to the story on CNN, it appears that lot of the words in the story's tag line are not true or not relevant.
Katie - not relevant, it could very well have been anyone else. Infact, the CNN piece only talked about others, because i guess Katie said 'No' when asked to come on the show
to bear - ok this is the only truth in the story, she is bearing a child
Tom's child - completely irrelevant, and no one other than Katie knows the real truth
in silence - well, here is the kicker, not true. Scientology talks about using 'wrong words', not about screaming.

I am victim and a perpetrator, i fell for it, because i was hooked by 'Tom' in the story. And although i feel that we should give them their space to do what they want and how they want, but i too couldn't completely shut them out.

Katie to bear Tom's child in silence

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mac appeal

Finally, i think i hear my calling. Apple has a new utility that allows the installation of Win XP on a Mac machine. I have always wanted an Apple laptop since i saw it in a store for the first time, almost 3 years ago. Since then i have been seen more people buying the MacOS based machine over Win XP.

I had devoted a better part of my IT career disputing the claims of Windows operating system and its company's practices. But somehow i always had compromise and use a windows based laptop. Now there is no need to.

I am already drooling on the possiblities. My laptop is only about 2 yrs and 5 mths old. My last laptop i managed to hang-on to, for four years. But i am already grown tired of my Dell 8600. The only thing i wanted when i was shopping for a laptop was a 15" screen. I got a 15.4" screen, but lately i have felt i am carrying a suitcase, instead when i could carry a backpack.

Ok, i am off now.. got to finish up my research.

Apple moves to widen Mac appeal
MacBook Pro XP vs. the PC competition

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

35 hrs per week

How can you be productive if you only work 35 hrs per week ? How can you actually do any work if you work only about 7 hours a day ?

I came up with this number, which is the hours a week an average person works in France, Germany and some part of the EU. This is not a new phenomenon and was not introduced to spite the Americans, Asians and other harder working people of the world. The concept behind this work week is that people work to lead a better life. And so they also need time to spend with their family so that they can lead a better life.

I was born in India, grew up in India, and worked my first job in India. The life and work week before i started, was a regular 40+5 hours week, where the extra 5 hrs came from Saturday. But yet life was a lot sane and tame. When i started work in NIIT, 40hrs a week was the starting point, it then ranged between 60-90 hrs during a typical work week. Then again, when you actually analysed the time you spent doing real work, you quickly observe that over 30% of the time was wasted in non work related stuff. And when you took out all this wasted time and factor in all the rework you had to do, because you didn't do it right the first time, the good old 40 hr week would have easily achieved the same quality of output.

When i came to America, it appeared as if i bought this problem with me. It really had to do with the increasing role and profile of the Information and Technology departments within large companies. This was further exasperated by the evolution of internet in the late 90s and the fight to solve the Y2K problem. Suddenly it was fashionable to spend every waking and sleeping hour at work, under and over the desk and cube, slopping around in home clothes at work. All of these were strangely but intrinsically connected with my career and line of work. I am thankful, in some way, because my success in life came with this same technology revolution. A lot of good came out of this, but so did a lot of bad.

Few symptoms of this work and life stye:
- your current best friends are people who meet at work everyday
- movies and outings are spent with co-workers and family
- eat junk food (food served by the company)
- no time to exercise, because you need to be at work
- the sun is down and out, and its really dark, when you reach home.
- all work is due COB today.
- there are no non-critical tasks

I can go on. But, I do make a lot of money. I do have a lot of fun. I love what i do at work. And, I do have a lot of friends. But i do also realize and see the pressure this building on me and my family. I only hope that i will find time eventually when i can sit back and relax for all the hard work accumulated all these years.

Till then, three cheers to the French and German worker. Hope they are able to spread their success to the rest of the world.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Inside Man


Its been a while, since i have gone out to the movies here in the US. There are very few that come out from the big production houses that interest me, and then there is the issue of time. Well anyway, found some time this week, watched Inside Man, a decision i wont regret.

Directed by Spike Lee
That alone would have been good enough to go watch a movie. Ever since i saw his presentation of Malcom X, i have tried to my best to catch his movies on video or cable. Although not too lucky at it, i havent been disappointed by him yet. I read in the local paper 'City Paper', that he wasnt the director original slated to do this movie. So what would Spike do to a movie, which is about a bank robbery.

Starring: Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, Christopher Plumer.
Denzel alone is enough again, to drag you into the movie hall. Throw Jodie Foster in, that would have been a killer. Clive Owen, is the british actor, who has been doing some interesting stuff recently. I didnt need too much more to go out and watch the movie. When you walk out of the movie, it is not these individiuals as actors or their performances that will strike you.

What strikes you first is, Chaiya Chaiya. Yes the song by AR Rehman for the movie, 'Dil Se'. After all the trailers are over, and most of the popcorn is over, in this case it was cheese dripping over hot fries. Well the movie was timed perfectly after my 3 mile run, and all this was indulgence anyway. As the wise say, 'when you indulge, set no limits'.

Back to Inside Man, the movie starts to the strains of Chaiya Chaiya, the titles are presented, with the song running in the background. Now that must be a Spike Lee stamp. But why, i dont know. Its not a bit of the song, its the full version, of the song, and it is repeated again, at the end. But, that doesnt set the tone for the movie at all.

Plot: Bank heist
The plot, awesome, the rendering, superbly done. I am a sucker for a well planned heist or robbery. This plot leaves you with few question, that need answer. Towards the end, i was like, please show me more, dont leave things out, so that i have to use my imagination.

Nice movie. I would recommend it. Some small, things stick out. Some parts of the script, the dialouges, which obviously have a Spike Lee stamp on it. Here is one sample:
The NYPD detective assigned to investigate, is talking to a Bank Clerk, held hostage for a couple of hours and then released. The bank clerk, is a Sikh, who comes out all covered in overhauls, and when the NYPD squad pull his mask off, they shout, 'oh shit, an Arab', and pull of his turban.
The bank clerk, is now pissed. He wants his tuban back, he explains animatedly how his turban is part of his religion and he needs it to cover his head, goes on to shout about how he is always called an arab, and about the 'random selection' everytime he boards a flight.
Denzel, the detective, says 'you can still get a cab'
The bank clerk, says 'yes that is one of the perks'

Now, that is not subtle. That is commentary, direct, straight and simple about the happenings in the society here. The neat thing is that, Spike has a lot of opportunities for such commentary and uses it effectively, without hampering the story telling. I guess he chose to play this out in the streets of Manhattan for a reason.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Time to change

Oh its that time of the year, when time has to change. The first Sunday in April has arrived and we have to about adjusting clocks, watches, the VCR, the microwave, and many other places where time is displayed. It has gotten to such a frenzy that a few good minutes of the already shortened Sunday morning is spent running about changing clocks. But the good thing is that, in what would be an unique exercise, what time takes away, it gives back. In October, Sunday has an extra hour, because of the reversal of this process.

If you are wondering, what i am talking about, this is the time when, the US and i think Canada too, change to Day light Saving mode. The concept is pretty confusing at best, to understand. The summer in the northern hemisphere creates longer days, and sometimes never ending days. At the height of summer, the sun doesn't set until 9pm or so. And that is partially because of the Daylight Saving Time. The effect is supposed to allow the country save millions of dollars, because of the cost of electricity saved in lighting up streets and buildings etc. Of course the real impact is that, no one saves anything really, the longer day simply increase the opportunity to be up and about and spent more money on something else.

Although this time change, passes of without major incidents, there have been an ocassion or two, when i have missed this process and found out much later. In April, the mix up has cost you an hour or you have arrived late, and in October, the same mix up, may come as pleasant surprise. The confusion and bewilderment is higher amongst people from outside the US, specially the places where there is no concept of daylight time change.

An interesting conversation to be shared, before i end this. My friend was talking to his uncle, who was stationed in Saudi Arabia, and before he finished the conversation, he alerted his uncle about the time change, so that there is no confusion when the speak next week.
my friend: we will be changing the time next week
uncle: what do you mean, you will be changing the time ?
friend: well the time will be changed by an hour on sunday
uncle (still confused): why are you changing the time ?
friend: the entire country, all of the US will be changing the time
This is was about the time of the first gulf war, 1991, so people were just about getting used to some arbitary and unilatteral decisions by the US. This friend's uncle also assumed this was one such decision.
uncle: how can the US decide to change the time ? How can they do something with out talking to other countries ?

Tags: usa, daylight, time+change, timezone, daylight+saving, EST, EDT