Monday, September 27, 2010

Commonwealth games - Failed before the exam!

Commonwealth games, it’s the hot topic these days in most commonwealth countries and is even making headlines elsewhere. Criticisms and controversies have been endless and it seems like games are doomed even before they begin. Even if they games go ahead and are successful, they are likely to be remembered for all that negativity during the lead up than for any sporting prowess. A friend encourage me to put my views on the same so here they are.

Saying that the infrastructure and preparation for the games was laggard is being too kind. The games federation gets 6 years to prepare the entire infrastructure and apparently they did nothing for the first three! Given that, infrastructure is somewhat ready is still a miracle. Despite all the criticism the fact is that the infrastructure for these games, at least on paper is far better than anything offered in any previous games. The questions are - is it ready? Is up to the quality promised? Answer to both questions in my mind is negative. The venues are not ready but I’d like to believe that they will be by the times games start. The quality of the stadiums should be up to standard but the village probably will never be. How a room can be as filthy as shown in leaked pictures is beyond my imagination. All things considered it is very unlikely that the CGF would have been planning to hand over the rooms in that condition. The other side of the coin is that that negative news always makes headlines in most of western countries and the statement on Australian and other team officials on their satisfaction with the facilities were conveniently left out. If you look at most Australian dailies 95% of news about India is negative. Surely India can’t be doing that many things wrong!!? There is lies the story. But who can blame the media, it only reflects what people what to hear and read.

On the important question of security; No one wants to risk lives for sports and I personally support this position. In all the travel advice and warnings on the threat of terrorism in India some things have been conveniently left out. Fact is India has faced terrorism for the past two decades and there have been numerous terrorist attacks in most major cities. However, I can’t remember security being compromised in any major international event. There was an incident during IPL last year but the even the outer perimeter wasn’t breached. Most attacks have been in unsecured vulnerable areas and given the nature of terrorism it’s impossible to guarantee safety and prevention from those. Threat of these attacks does seem larger in India but to the games, I can’t see why it would be different than in any other country.

But what about the hard hitting report by Australian journalist Mike Duffy and on complete inability of security from stopping him walk into Commonwealth games venue with a bomb! Many international athletes scared by the lax security started to pull out of the games! Delhi police immediately issued a response and explanation of why the report was false and what was wrong with the fabricated story. Of course no one in any western country bought any of it. As per the prevalent view Indian cops are corrupt and incompetent and they would rather trust a western media report than the Delhi police. But would you believe if you heard it from the west? CNN reported Parikshit Luthra exposed flaws in the story and ABC media watch did a complete story on unethical reporting and fabrication of the story. Don’t’ believe me? Here it is for you to watch

Getting back to the games, Can India host a successful commonwealth games? We surely can! Did we drop the ball on the lead up? Yes we did. Again, no matter how good the preparations might have been or how flawlessly the games could be executed, some countries would be looking to beat India down. They always do. All the more reason for everyone concerned to be on top of their game and get this done properly. Instead this exposed corruption and bureaucracy that India is all too well known for. All is not lost, at least India is a humble country and for all it failings will look inwards and in its own slow yet humble pace, change. West on the other hand continues to blow its trumpet and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. For them obviously all the problems lie elsewhere!

Have I been objective in writing this post? Definitely not, no one has been, why should I start? At least I don’t claim to be a journalist!

PS: Added 30/09/2010
All is not bad!

Friday, August 20, 2010

History of the world economy

Some who are convinced of the infallibility of countries and regions never believe when I mention economic history of the world, its cyclic nature and winners and losers of the past. So when I came across this, I thought I'd post it for anyone who needs convincing. I think the important lesson is "every dog has its day". Important to be humble when you are successful. Someone will beat you, its only a question of time.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Philosophy of happiness

What is happiness? Should the purpose of my life just be to maximise happiness? Why and how? These are just some of the questions that I have been trying to answer these past few years and in my pursuit realised that this has been topic of discussion for thousands of years.

Recently, I signed on to attend a talk and discussion on the “Philosophy of happiness” organised by the local philosophy circle.

Prior to that someone forwarded me links to this interesting debate “Is the pursuit of happiness making us miserable” Interesting question indeed! Modern life seems all about acquiring and achieving things whether it is money, goods, materialistic things or achievements and records, or for that matter, intellectual pursuits. We set goals try to achieve those and getting there makes us happy, but then we need new goals and new pursuits which is and endless cycle.

I loved this 5 minute speech by Petrea king on the subject which addresses this.
However, the counter by the advertising guy was equally impressive.

Buddhism and Hinduism try to addresses the matter by saying we must try to escape this endless pursuit. Happiness comes from escaping craving in every form. While I believe there this to be true I am not satisfied by the explanation that leaving everything is the answer. Seems a little escapist!

Anyway, the lecture was quite interesting and covered all the different views given by major philosophers from Socrates, Plato, Aquinas, Nietzsche, Sartre and others and psychologist such as Maslow etc. Many theories, but no answers!

If you really want to understand the basic tenants and philosophers who directly tried to address the topic, view this 6 part documentary "Philosophers guide to Happiness"

However, in the 20th century happiness is a topic for economist, psychologist, neuro-physiologist, biologist and one can deal with it in pure philosophy alone.

My favourite basic theory on happiness is Abraham Maslow “Hierarchy of needs” where he describes that we have certain needs at various levels that need to be met for us to be happy for e.g. if our food and security needs are not met its hard to be happy but if they are met its not sufficient, we then need to satisfy higher needs such as social recognition and self actualisation.

However, one can easily see that is modern context they may not hold as true, so it is yet another incomplete theory.

I have laid out a lot of material and theories out here but no concrete answers. I don’t believe there is one and even if there was one I am in no illusion that it can be represented in a blog post.

In any case, this is my view. Happiness is a state of mind. Obviously, happiness is felt through secretion of certain chemicals in the brain that can be intrinsically or extrinsically induced. Different external accomplishments can bring us happiness, as well as out own personal thoughts or for e.g. just saying “I feel good”. In my view the current western thought regarding pursuing happiness is incorrect. If happiness is a state and relative state, then its pursuit cannot bring a higher state of happiness. For e.g. if you thought achieving X will make you happy, achievement of that goal recalibrates you to a new steady state that might require achievement Y to bring you to higher state. That’s why use of drugs for happiness also doesn’t work as users often fall into depression.

Interesting question was raised in the discussion post the lecture about introspection on happiness. One could be “happy” or “sad” or in any state but you realise that only when you think about it. And once you begin to introspect that may change the state of your happiness. This brings into connection the Heisenberg’s theory of uncertainty but we will not go into that complexity here.

So maybe happiness lies in that fact the one needs to acknowledge its relativity and either choose to minimise its variance or live as once please for it’s high and low moments. Make your choices for you will never raise your overall state of happiness extrinsically. You can do it intrinsically by concluding that you are happy as is!

Anyway, it’s hard to address this issue in depth but I will leave you with a question.
If you had choice to take a pill that will ensure, with no side effects, that you will stay completely happy for the rest of your life, will you take it?

What makes you doubt? Isn’t that what you always wanted?

Saturday, May 01, 2010


"Ok" I signalled to dive instructed making circle with thumb and index finger and leaving the other fingers straight.

"Jump into the water" called my Dive instructor, Lucy. She was Brit though had been in Australia for a while now.

I was quite nervous, wearing about 8 kgs in weight and huge and heavy oxygen tank on my back I couldn't see how I would float. Surely the little air we let into my vest wasn't going to be enough. I jumped in and to my surprise I did float. "Ok"

"Lets swim to the mooring line"

Four of us and the dive instructor headed to the mooring line. I was going to be the first one to go down. Lucy took air out of my vest and signalled to my mask. "Ok" I replied. Then to my ears "Equalise air pressure". I held my nose and blew "Ok". Final check, take out the regulator and breathed out "bubble.. bubble...bubble....". Back in "Ok" I signalled.

I am couple of metres down when the dive instructor leaves me to get the others. Somethings wrong, 2 people have already panicked and want to abandon. Meanwhile I am underwater alone and getting quite anxious. I am breathing heavily and the dry air from the tank still makes me feel like choking. My mask is not right, its filling with water. I look up and blow in attempt to clear it but instead it fills with more water. Shit!! I can't go up my vest is without air, I need the dive instructor to come down. I breath faster and faster as time goes by.

Finally Lucy is back, I signal to her that something is wrong, its my mask. She asks me to clear it, but that doesn't work. Now I am frantically signalling her to take me up, 3 breaths a second heart rate close to 180 or so. She fills my vest and we finally go up. Within 5 minutes my dive is over, I abandon head back to the boat. That was scary, it was my first dive!

An hour later next dive session I vow to try again. This time I won't panic, I tell myself. We dived again on the mooring line. I try to relax and think about the reef and fish. We dived to about 10 metres and it was fantastic. Unbelievable number and variety of flora and fauna of all colors imaginable. It was a totally different world, one I had never seen before. I touch and hold of couple of things that the dive master oked. Even gave out couple of "wicked' signals that she had taught me earlier. Among the coral was this huge thing that closed it mouth if you touched, fauna that disappeared if you clapped and the biggest sighting of them all a "black tip shark" passed us about 5 mts away. In all its strength and glory it passed us a lighting speed. We were back up in 30 mins and the dive was so amazing that I did another one next day.

The dives were part of the offering in this trip I was taking on board the "reef encounter" where stayed overnight near the reef. There were about 6 dive/snorkel session that one could indulge in and when I was not diving I was snorkeling. It was so much fun to go out on the reef and explore this part of the world we had never seen before. We've all seen glimpses in national geographic but i didn't care much for sea life till I got a first hand glimpse of its diversity and colour. At diving takes you to a new high! Now I was hooked on this adventure activity. I'll be back soon for many more dives.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It felt like a kiss

When I first watched it I didn't know what to make of it. "It felt like a kiss" was originally an interactive "promenade-style" theatre production by filmmaker Adam Curtis. Though I haven't watched theatre production, I did watch the experimental documentary version. This was an interesting mix of images, music and history weaved to narrate a story. However, To call this a documentary is little bit of a stretch. Nevertheless it a peice of creative art, definetly worth a watch.

It attempts to explain how power really works in the world and how America came to be the way it is today, all powerful and dictating, obviously a loaded agenda. More subtly it tries to highlight how our own ideas are a function of the prevailing political and social thought at the time. Again, I wouldn't consider this serious documentary for the reason that it a set of visuals interpreted by a narrator with a predisposed message. A more objective documentary would represent both sides of a story, be factual and evaluative and reach its conclusions that way. The overall message is a little ambiguous as well.

Watch it here
Learn more

If you haven't heard of Adam Curtis, then you are missing out on the works of an excellent documentary filmmaker. One of my favorites. His works predominantly relate to society and politics of our time and how they came about. Three of his works stand out in my view

The Century of Self: Is about Freudian theories on human nature and how they were adapted by Edward Bernays to invent the field of PR. Documentary highlights that this was in turn widely used in modern and contemporary society to manipulate the masses for power, both in business and politics.

Power of Nightmares: Compares the radical Islamic movement to the rise of Neo-Conservatives and how fear, in its various ways, is used to mobilize the masses by a select group to fulfill their own vision of utopia.

The Trap: This one is a fascinating piece of work exploring the concepts of liberty and freedom in our society. The first part starts with concept of how dominant modern theories treat human as corrupt and selfish individuals with solutions ultimately aimed at acheving control. It brings in and explains Nash's cold war solution called "Fuck you buddy". Second part explores efforts by psychiatrist to define "normal" behavior and attempt to bring the masses to "standard acceptable behavior" and controlled responses. Third part explores the concept of positive and negative liberty and how governments attempt to use "liberty" as excuse for intervention ultimately leads to a trap of reducing civil liberties. I found this series very insightful and
informative and would highly recommend watching it.

You can watch all the three series for free on this website

In the age of Soaps and reality TV, I find these refreshing to watch. Hope you do too.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One of the Best Political Speech

No, its not by a liberal, not by a conservative, not from any media hogging politician we know. It is "Come September" a speech by Arundhati Roy, Booker prize winner for "The God of Small Things", in 2002. I have only recently come across this amazing speech that talks about Power, Ideology, Coercion, Nationalism, Imperialism, Neo-Imperialism, Globalization, Justice and Civil unrest

She introduces the topic with

"The theme of much of what I write, fiction as well as nonfiction, is the relationship between power and powerlessness and the endless, circular conflict they're engaged in"(1)

"There can never be a single story. There are only ways of seeing. So when I tell a story, I tell it not as an ideologue who wants to pit one absolutist ideology against another, but as a story-teller who wants to share her way of seeing. Though it might appear otherwise, my writing is not really about nations and histories; it's about power. About the paranoia and ruthlessness of power. About the physics of power. I believe that the accumulation of vast unfettered power by a State or a country, a corporation or an institution - or even an individual, a spouse, a friend, a sibling -regardless of ideology, results in excesses such as the ones I will recount here"

About Nationalism

"But it isn't necessary to be 'anti-national' to be deeply suspicious of all nationalism, to be anti-nationalism. Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century"

"Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead."


"The term "anti-American" is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely - but shall we say inaccurately - define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they are heard, and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride"


"It would be absurd to think that those who criticize the Indian government are "anti-Indian" - although the government itself never hesitates to take that line. It is dangerous to cede to the Indian government or the American government or anyone for that matter, the right to define what "India" or "America" are or ought to be."

The definition itself

"To call someone "anti-American", indeed to be anti-American, (or for that matter, anti-Indian or anti-Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it's a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those the establishment has set out for you. If you're not a Bushie you're a Taliban. If you don't love us, you hate us. If you're not Good, you're Evil. If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists."

War on Terror

"The grief is still deep. The rage still sharp. The tears have not dried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world. Yet, each person who has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply, that no war, no act of revenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone else's loved ones or someone else's children, will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own loved ones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their memory."

" What we are seeing now is a vulgar display of the business of grief, the commerce of grief, the pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political purpose. It is a terrible, violent thing for a State to do to its people."

Then she goes on to talk about several events from the past history that took place in the month of September. Overthrow of governments in South america, CIA backed coup in Chile, British mandate in Palestine. She quotes Winston Churchill's view won Palestine who said

"I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

follow it up with several inhumane statements by Israeli leaders. And finally on Palestine

"Over the decades there have been uprisings, wars, intifadas. Tens of thousands have lost their lives. Accords and treaties have been signed. Cease-fires declared and violated. But the bloodshed doesn't end. Palestine still remains illegally occupied. Its people live in inhuman conditions, in virtual Bantustans, where they are subjected to collective punishments, twenty-four hour curfews, where they are humiliated and brutalized on a daily basis. They never know when their homes will be demolished, when their children will be shot, when their precious trees will be cut, when their roads will be closed, when they will be allowed to walk down to the market to buy food and medicine. And when they will not. They live with no semblance of dignity. With not much hope in sight. They have no control over their lands, their security, their movement, their communication, their water supply. So when accords are signed, and words like "autonomy" and even "statehood" bandied about, it's always worth asking: What sort of autonomy? What sort of State? What sort of rights will its citizens have?"

"What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people who suffered so cruelly themselves - more cruelly perhaps than any other people in history - to understand the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom they have displaced? Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty? What hope does this leave the human race with?"

Moving on...some other interesting quotes from the speech

"Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons. They're usually fought for hegemony, for business. And then of course there's the business of war."

"All kinds of dissent are being defined as "terrorism". All kinds of laws are being passed to deal with it. Osama bin Laden seems to have vanished into thin air. Mullah Omar is supposed to have made his escape on a motorbike. (They could have sent TinTin after him.)"

"Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the War Against Terror was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their way of life. When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves tremble in their quarters. So, standing here today, it's hard for me to say this, but "The American Way of Life" is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America."

If this peeks your interest, read the full speech at

The speech also captured in a Documentary with pictures and videos that capture the essence of her message. The documentary is called "We"
Watch here

I leave you with my favorite quote from her speech

"Meanwhile down at the mall there's a mid-season sale. Everything's discounted - oceans, rivers, oil, gene pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, aluminum factories, phone companies, wisdom, wilderness, civil rights, eco-systems, air - all 4,600 million years of evolution. It's packed, sealed, tagged, valued and available off the rack. (No returns). As for justice - I'm told it's on offer too. You can get the best that money can buy."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The 90s in India - ‘Pehla nasha’ se ‘Rangeela re’

This post is dedicated to my country on its 60th year as a Republic.

Having lived in US these past few years I quite often heard about 80s music and culture that everyone raves about. I never could relate as I was quite young in the 80s, never liked glawdy, glowy costumes or cheesy western pop songs. Though on the other side if you are Indian and if you were in your teens in the 90s, you know we are talking about a fabulous period.

“Pehla Nasha” this dreamy and romantic song probably had more impact on young teen minds than any book or speech would ever have. It invoked passions and was liberating in the societal context. I guess it came out in 1992 or 93 but I remember it being very popular in my school when I was in 9th standard(1994) Every one of us boys probably dreamed of singing this to our crushes, which most of us including myself never went through with. Well! Anyway the funniest incident I remember regarding the song was the time we decided to form a choir to sing this in our school festival in 10th standard. Our strict vice principal wouldn’t allow us as he said it had sexual references. The fact that it only refers to a “kiss’ probably highlighted his naivety and medieval thinking. We promised to edit and sang it full anyway and got away with it. I guess our minor innocent teen rebellions in India were much more enjoyable and less harmful than ‘drugs and guns’ in the west.

Going back a couple of years to the dawn of the 90s I remember one of my favourite was the “Chinese radio” by “London boys”. Though, I was equally hooked on Bryan Adams, GNR and Bon Jovi. Western influences weren’t as widespread in India at the time though they were quite popular in pockets. I guess we always appreciated what we found good irrespective of origins, signs on the increasing openness of the 90s. I was in J&K at the time and quite remember these two brothers who were friends of us two brothers rocking out to “Bed of roses” though I confess I didn’t know the lyrics at all. The four of us when to adventure camp in Khajiar, Himachal Pradesh. We were woken up to a song at 5 am everyday which I forget (I’m sure my elder bro remembers. Will check) but they also played “Informer” by snow. We all loved it and if not everyone, at least I thought it was in some weird language only to grow up and find later that it was in English sung by an American.

Moving on from Music, who can forget endless strips on ‘Chacha Chaudhury’ & ‘Twinkle’ comics we read, mostly in school sneaked in between the text books. If that wasn’t enough our favourite indoor class was definitely book cricket. What a wonderful invention! Breaks in the school days and bus trips were spent playing “trumps” with cards of wrestlers or cars. “Undertaker” and “Hulk Hogan” I remember were the ones to have. Evening cricket or football was common everyday with us running into each other homes for Mom’s or aunt’s tea and biscuits. Of course those we gulped down endless glasses of Rasna too.

Summer vacations were everyone’s favourite time of the year. Almost every year we made the long train journey back to our home town to visit our grandparents. While I enjoyed every bit of the vacation but my favourite part was the long 2 day 2 night train journey across India. In the 90s we still used trains aplenty. You could really see and experience a lot of India through these journeys and time did not seem to matter as much then. Everyone is trying to get somewhere fast these days! Back then I wished we the train ride would last forever!

I could go on and on about the small little things that epitomised our life in 90s and why they were so amazing. However, in the interest of brevity, I would recommend you look up the facebook group You Know You Grew Up in India in the 90s when" to recount all those happy times. Instead I’ll talk about the new vibrancy in “bollywood” in the late 90s reflecting the mood of the nation. I was about to complete school and move to college and around the same time two blockbuster movies captured the imagination of everyone in the nation. DDLJ and Rangeela! Who does not remember the music and how the songs got played endlessly for at least a year or two! Rangeela was my favourite of the two. Remember Urmila running on the beach in “tanha tanha” or the crazy creative dances in “Kya kare kya na kare”?

So there you have it. I am sure I haven’t covered everything, far from it, but at least its a glimpse into growing up in the 90s in India. Too many things changed in India in the 90s. The country transformed. Though this post just offers some snippets into my memories, many other changes had huge bearing on our life. It was as exciting a time as present day India still is. If you experienced it you’ll know what I am talking about. If not, it’s very hard to explain what you missed.

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