Monday, December 24, 2012

A thousand words..

Some scenes from the Delhi Protests:

And my personal favorite

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Trekking wishlist

Having been to the Himalayas more times than I care to remember, I have become a closet fanatic. If I were asked for one wish by some weird skinned Genie, giving me enough money and time for these trips would be it.

1. Golan Heights, Israel/Syria

2. Utsukushigahara Highlands, Japan

3. Carpathians, Romania

4. Yunnan, China

5. Rockies

6. Kanchenjungha and Nandadevi

7. Mount Elbrus, Greater Caucasus, Russia

Disclaimer: All images have, of course, been shamelessly plagiarized, myself never having been to any of these places. To the original owners: I apologize. My point of putting up these images was to highlight the beauty of these places, and your photos did it better than any I have come across.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A troll post on James B(l)ond

Found somewhere (mostly, tumblr, I think) on the internet. HAD to post it. The name is,

“James Blond in Casino L’Oreal”
“James Blond 007 in Live and Let Dye”
“James Blond 007 in Tomorrow Never Dyes”
“James Blond 007 in The Wig is not Enough”
“James Blond 007 in A Hue to a Kill”
“James Blond 007 in Dyed Manes are Forever”
“Q, get the shampoo ready. Somebody’s gonna dye tonight”
“James Blond in Dyefall”
“James Blond in From Russia with Dove”
"James Blond in Dye Another Day"
"James Blond in You Only Dye Twice"
"James Blond in On Her Majesty's Salon Service"
"James Blond in The Man With The Golden Hair"
"James Blond in For Your Dyes Only"
"James Blond in GoldenDye"
"James Blond in Licensed To Shave"
"James Blond in Hairfall"
“Straightened, not curled.”
“Dr. Nope”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

50 reasons why I love Bombay

Yes, I know they call it Mumbai these days. Or maximum city. Or Shanghai. Or whatever. I don't give a damn what they call it. When I was born there, it was called Bombay. When that kind stranger whom I now call Nani first offered me a Polo mint, it was still called Bombay, and when I was in the sleeper compartment of some non-AC train with my mother, anticipating eagerly what I knew would be the best two months of any given year, it was still called Bombay. (I remember the non-AC part because the peculiar smell emanating from the iron rods of the window grills, the food bits on the floor and behind the seats and the drink/pan stains on the window metal has never quite left my nostrils.) It was Flora Fountain that my mother took me to, and it was at VT that we had my first cola drink at, so Bombay it is for me, no disrespect to the dead.

Everybody who has spent any amount of time in Bombay has enough reasons to hate it, and I am no exception. God knows I have reasons to hate it. But by the same token, anyone who has spent any amount of time in Bombay also has enough reasons to love it. Even here, I am no exception. Here are some of mine, probably in chronological order (in the order that I encountered them in my life):

1. Nani-Nana: the best grandparents anyone can ask for, period.

2. Maru General Stores, Kandivali West: G.I.Joe and He Man action figurines. This is where I built my action figure empire from.

3. The relief/happiness/ecstasy/liberation I felt (and still do) every time my train from Surat crossed Vasai. I knew I was in for an awesome time.

4. Tomato Eggs, Puran Poli, Dahi Pakoras: Nani, I love you.

5. Nana bringing in HUGE crates of ice cream from his factory on every fourth day of my stay.

6. Unlimited color TV (My place at Surat did not have a good TV for the first 12 years of my life.)

7. Introduction to Super Mario, Tanks, Gelga, Tetris and more. Enough said.

8. Crossword. It used to have some class in those days.

9. The first real set of friends I had.

10. Card games and cheating at them.

11. The English assignments given to me by mom, and me convincing her after 2 months why I had done absolutely nothing.

12. Shopper's Stop, Andheri: in those days it had only one branch. And clothes shopping there was an annual ritual involving my nani, my mother, me, a lot of histrionics and fighting, an ice cream cone, a pop corn tub and  probably a slap or two (maybe more) on my face.

13. Watching India vs. South Africa from Pavilion, Wankhede, 1996. India: 267/6. SA reached something like 225.

14. Dynasty Chinese: the best Chinese restaurant I've ever been to. In your face, Mainland China.

15. Long walks on marine drive and Juhu beach with mom (and if I was lucky, dad)

16. Taraporewala Aquarium: It was in excellent condition back then.

17.Standing on the Queen's Necklace at sunset with parents, hands heavy with Crossword/Strand/Bombay Store shopping, and watching the beautiful diamond necklace light up, while sharing a kulfi with dad.

18. Taking a ferry to the Essel World or a drive to FantasyLand.

19. Rains that could read your thoughts about you not wanting them to stop.

20. Falling asleep in auto-rickshaws while going to places as "far-away" as Andheri East or IIT.

21. Juhu. The area. Includes every single thing.

22. Hitting a boundary in under-arm cricket

23. Taking two consecutive wickets and then bowling 18 consecutive wides in the under-15 Presi Tournament.

24. The Christianity of Orlem. My first real experience with multiculturalism and boy did I love it.

25. Lokhandwala, Andheri and Alfa Store: only a true Bombayite would know what I am talking about.

26. The New Zealand Dairy in the Aarey Colony. I always wondered why New Zealand was so poor it had to sell milk in India. Or maybe it was such a small country it did not have enough space to open a dairy there.

27. Receiving my Harvard-MIT cousin or his parents at the airport. I found the international airport so charming I wanted to stay there for one whole night. (A wish I unfortunately saw fulfilled many years down the line. Brought me back to Earth, that one.)

28. Eros and Regal cinemas. I think I saw Dragonheart and Flubber there.

29. Fantasy Chocolates.

30. The seashore. I have forgotten which one. I could see an island or something from the shore, and I would try to convince everyone that it was Africa.

31. TIFR: quite possibly the most beautiful place I have been to in Bombay. The lunch was sumptuous.

32. BARC: Another amazing place, memories I wish were more than memories.

33. Bhaidas Theatre: I was never bored for a single moment there.

34. Amar Pav Bhaji, the grilled sandwich outside Mithibai.

35. Haji Ali, Haji Ali juice centre, Amar Sons, Prem Sons, the guy who sells (to this day) Kala Khatta and Watermelon Slush and grilled sandwiches there.

36. Nehru Planetarium and J J Raval: A man I respect unabashedly. The first of the many giants I have had the good fortune to meet.

37. Crawford Market (I will call it nothing other than that, call me deshdrohi colonial British swine if you want to.)

38. Holding my mother's hand and feeling an inexplicable sense of security amidst a crowd of hundreds. (This entry should have come a lot earlier.)

39. IIT and Krav Maga: Hell, yeah.

40. The pink-orange-purple sky at sunset from my hostel room, the Renaissance Hotel in the evening, and the light on the Powai Lake boulevard.

41. Hiranandani: made a lazy pig out of me.

42. Hard Rock Cafe, Lower Parel: a favorite band, a loving girlfriend, the company of close friends and a recent victory can make anyone pretty heady.

43. Jehangir Art Gallery, Samovar Cafe and the Prince of Wales Museum

44. Colaba Causeway

45. Leopold's, Piccadilly's (especially the Pita Bread with sauce/mayonnaise) and the Iranian Khana I had those unforgettable muska-buns at.

46. Siddhivinayak.

47. Falling in and out of love, learning important lessons along the way.

48. The transformation of a 23-year old boy into a 23-year old man: through death, struggle and tears.

49. Watching Naseeruddin Shah's theatre group perform George Bernard Shaw plays at Prithvi. Feeling myself to be a part of that pseudo-elite club.

50. Leaving Bombay for one final time, knowing I would never spend as much time there again as I already had, painfully aware of the gaping hole in my heart that leaving this city has made, knowing I would unsuccessfully try and fill it with other things for a long time to come.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The hill swallowed the cave, the cave swallowed the ant

The title is actually a line from a Kannada folk song, Kodagana Koli Nungitta. It was performed in IIT by Raghu Dixit during Mood Indigo, and I totally fell in love with the song once he explained to us the meaning of it. But that's the big surprise for this post.

This post is a humble dedication to Professor Date, whom I mentioned in an earlier post. He taught us a lot of things, including compassion, humility and also the pleasantly surprising fact that honesty and intelligence are not, and should not be, mutually exclusive. He completed his PhD from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London ( where he also played Cricket for London Univ and the Indian Gymkhana. He had the opportunity to play against many first-class cricketers including a one-day match between the 1973 touring West Indies team captained by Clive Lloyd and the Gymkhana at Osterly - a suburb of London. He opened the bowling for Indian Gymkahana and got two wickets - Steve Comacho and Roy Fredricks ) and returned to India to join IIT Bombay as an asst-professor in 1973. He witnessed, with his own eyes, the terrible effects of the drought of 1972 in Maharashtra. From what we know of him, he roamed the entire state with a bunch of his students, saw the plight of the people and could not take it beyond a point. He returned to IIT and decided to dedicate his major time in the application of technology to solve the problems of rural India.

This was the beginning of first, the Appropriate Technology Unit ( ATU ) in 1973 and later, in 1985, the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural  Areas, or CTARA, in IIT Bombay. But Date sir's true legacy is not CTARA, or even the invaluable insight we gained from him. It is his philosophy. His philosophy of true empowerment of people, combined with local self-sufficiency, has been heavily influenced by Gandhi and Schumacher, and has, in turn, influenced about 3 decades of CTARA students: Project Assistants as well as degree students. Analyzed deeply, it is the ONLY workable philosophy for sustainable rural development, and it seems to provide solutions to most rural problems that I apply it to.

The philosophy essentially is very simple: don't force your rule on people, don't force a large scale bureaucratic system on villages. Let villages handle their own problems, and help them in the process of doing so. They know the problems, and they more often than not have the solutions. Your task is limited to helping them connect the two and doing it in a sustainable way so that after you go away, the villages can do it on their own. And the smaller the scale of the problem/solution, the more effective it will be. Which means, always identify a large problem and divide it into smaller portions, and try to solve these portions separately, while not losing sight of the bigger puzzle. A simple application of this philosophy would be setting up bio-gas plants in a village with good cattle population but no toilets/sanitation system and heavy reliance on firewood. The health hazards due to open dung and defecation can be easily overcome by channeling all that excreta into a biogas plant, and supply the villagers with the resultant gas, which can be used for cooking, resulting in lesser exploitation of forest resources for the same.

Professor Date is nearing retirement now, and has won, as mentioned earlier, the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award that IIT B gives to its best faculty members. I owe a profound debt of gratitude to him for completely changing the way I look at this world. It is he and the other professors of my department who are my motivation today.

And this is where the title of the post comes in. The line in the original song goes this way: 

"Gudda gaviyannu nungi, Gavi iruveya nungi, Govinda guruvina pada nannanu nungitta thangi"

Meaning, the hill swallowed the cave, and the cave swallowed the ant in it. So just as the hill swallowed the ant, my guru's feet swallowed me.

Pretty much sums up what I feel about Date Sir.

If anyone's interested in the song itself, here it is:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Some more pictures from my brotherhood

Why am I putting up these pictures? I don't know. I don't think any of my ex-classmates even know I keep a blog, let alone read it. On similar lines, I don't expect any of my few readers to understand what we were up to on all these hikes/field trips. I suppose I am just sharing something that is very close to my heart, something which I feel should be preserved in this digital time capsule of my emotions, something I feel I can come back to when I am down. Essentially, something that can actually conjure a patronus charm for me. A happy memory.

In a meeting, on the first night of our MP village stay. Notice the bottle in my hands? That 2-month stay completely destroyed the sturdy metal thing.

5 AM, in a village, is a beautiful time.

The little tyke wanted me to run all the way down the slope like this.

One of our countless weekend trips. I'm the one with the bag and the bottle, to my left is Prof. Anil Date, our HoD and the most awesome teacher I have had in my life. He was a faculty member during my uncle's days at IIT-B, he taught my project guide, and he taught me. His students are today IAS officers, planning commission sub-group members, MDs, CEOs, Chief Ministers, Union Ministers and more. I am honored to have been taught by him.

At the age of 66, Professor Date works 12 hour days and actually accompanies students on hikes that are grueling, to say the least. Is it any wonder that he won the very prestigious lifetime achievement award, given only to the most amazing professors of IIT-B?

Brotherhood. Miss you, guys.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

International Trade - a failed engine of growth for India and Africa

This is a question that was asked in a competitive exam here in India, and I am attempting the answer in 5 minutes flat. So do pardon analytical/grammatical inconsistencies.

International trade, as it exists today, can be said to have failed in acting as a so called engine of growth in countries like India or the African nations i.e. third world countries. This is because:

1. These countries are rich in natural resources. Thus their exports largely consists of minerals, metals and raw material. In turn their imports consist of technological goods, capital goods and machinery. This induces a technological dependence on developed nations, thus hampering the growth of a knowledge intensive economy in these countries.

2. The manufacturing technology these countries possess is no match for the technical advances of OECD or the developed nations.In the era of free trade, this situation thus puts these countries at an inherent disadvantage and makes it harder for their firms and manufacturing units to survive in the international arena.

3. Post-WTO, it is not even possible for such countries to protect state or domestic industries for fear of being branded a protectionist and subsequent boycott.

4. These countries, many a times, have to take loans from international financial institutions to meet trade related obligations, whose conditions are stringent and places further economic burden on these nations.

5. Many of these countries are agrarian in nature with very less manufacturing capacity. This means their trade balance is generally negative, resulting in large accumulated deficit over years, putting them at a disadvantage in terms of development.

6. Finally, development and economic growth depend largely on changing progressive societal values in these countries. Free trade and globalization have not resulted in social mobilization in many countries. Until such mobilization takes place, no growth can be truly achieved.

Thus, it can be said that International trade, as it exists, has not really acted as an engine of growth in these countries.