Friday, March 31, 2006

60 seconds at the Indian Express Circle

Yeah Bangalore has poor infrastructure & slow moving traffic. But the fact is despite this downside there are some roads in Bangalore where life goes on at a lively pace and is anything but slow.

The Indian Express Circle in Bangalore is a case in point. Poor infrastructure & slow moving traffic is the common complaint of the software guys. To understand the scene at the Indian Express circle forget the software guys & their companies & think government offices & banks. Forget ready-made suits & ties or even jeans & T – Shirts & think stitched pant & shirt, sari & blouse. Forget leather bags or briefcases & think lunch boxes & cloth bags. Forget traveling in AC cars think stuffy public buses.

The Indian Express Circle is a junction of 5 roads. The converging roads are Cunningham road, Infantry Road, Park Road, Queens Road & another road that connects to Vidhana Soudha & whose name I’am unable to figure out. Due to its proximity to the Shivaji Nagar bus stand a lot of buses converge at this circle & either go out into the city or are returning to the bus stand. It is also a hot spot as Infantry Road & Cunningham Road are business centers & thereby there are a lot of people getting off there to go to their work place.

I touch the Indian Express circle through Park Road on the way to work. After the brief stop here I continue on Cunningham Road. So my position is like when I look ahead Cunningham Road is in front of me & Queens Road is to my right. From this spot I witness every single day the on street extravaganza & heroics of ordinary women, cyclists & the bus drivers. And there is never a dull day.

My stop at the Indian Express circle is approximately for 60 seconds. As I shift the gear to Neutral & rest my feet firmly on the ground & relax, what follows for the next 60 seconds will put the who dares wins & fear factors on TV to shame. People get off their bus to my right & cross the road to my left with no consideration for the traffic turning in towards their side. Ladies in their saris & flowers in their hair run across to catch their next bus on the other side of the road and the only direction they look is ahead like it were a 100-meter dash. Girls decked up with talcum powder & wearing high heels walk across in a guarded manner as if they were on the ramp. Some even stop mid way & adjust their sari or dress. Cyclists think that the whole concept of traffic signal is totally non-existent for them and freely ride across the road and the way they manage to do it by evading the crowd of people from one side and the autos & two wheelers on the other side leaves you totally flabbergasted. The cop is very much there but is switched off, his hand raises not to direct the traffic but to salute at an officers car.

The best part of a gondola ride is when you are coming down and though it is not really the same thing here you are sure to get a similar feeling when buses take their turns like they were not on a public road but in one of those formula one races. And magically all the people & other vehicles in front of it move away just in time for the bus to continue its curvy dance. Can you believe it?

Countdown timers above every signal post were introduced to help vehicle owners know just how long it would take for them to move & thus letting them switch off their vehicles confidently for a fair time to save on fuel & cut down on pollution but then they are used for totally different purposes. The quiet that is prevalent at 50…. 49…. 48 seconds gives way to a sudden burst of excitement once people see the countdown reach 10…9…. 8, when they become impatient & start to move not bothered about the still moving traffic from the other side. And unbelievably the traffic in the other side stops not because the signal has turned red at their end but because the traffic in the other direction has already started to move. Now in a democracy when the concept of freedom is taken to various heights how can behavior on the road be left out, so if on one side you find people who start early then on another side you will find people continuing even if it is well past their time. So an auto or a car will invariably continue like it is some joy ride that they are on. The other traffic for sure slows down. Some move on when the vehicles are past them while others hurl abuses & then move. Like it makes any difference.

When the countdown timer in front of me reaches 10…9…. 8 the vehicles behind me start to honk hinting to me to get involved in the entertainment. I keep an eye on the countdown timer 6…. honk… 5…honk…4…what the hell… I move and join the party.

The show continues.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Should the government give incentives to every girl child that is born?

That is the question being asked on Doctor NDTV. The responses to this are unbelievable. 75% say Yes and only 25% say No.

The reason for asking such a question in the first place could be the Indian attitude toward the girl child. The girl child is disliked as it is considered a burden on the family, as end of the day the girl child has to be married off into someone else’s family by giving a big dowry. The killing of female fetuses & female infants & the thriving illegal sex detection clinics are indications of this fact.

As a result the sex ratio is skewed in favor of men in India. As per the 1991 census number of females per 1000 males is 927. What is more horrifying is the sex ratio in urban India. It is 894 per 1000 males. Strangely it is better in rural India 939 per 1000 males. The only state where the sex ratio is the other way round is in Kerala. The number of females per 1000 males in this southern state is a encouraging 1036. (Source

It is important for the government to take certain initiatives to counter this & improve the sex ratio. Although on the face of it the idea of giving incentives sounds convincing, on going deeper into it, a move of that sort could only back fire. The very basis of that thought needs to be questioned here. We are not talking of somebody achieving some target or doing something good, we are talking of the girl child here. Are we saying that we will have girl children in this country who exist not out of love from their parents or relatives but out of some incentive that the government has given? It looks more like one of those marketing gimmicks. Buy one bar of soap & get one bottle of shampoo free. So if we translate that to the topic we are discussing then it would be something like you have a girl child then you get free education for the child.

Also what kind of incentives can the government really give for people to start feeling that the girl child is not a pain? Sponsor the child’s education? Give her a job once she completes a certain age? Give a certain amount of money to the family who has had the girl child? What else can the government possibly do other than these things? The primary reason for the hatred for the girl child as already stated is because of the notion that she is ‘paraya dhan’. How can the government change that?

One of the cons of giving incentives to the girl child is to give a boost to the sex trade. Some two people can get married only to have a female child & then to get the incentives & put the child into the sex trade. Also it could be mired in scams & controversies thus trivializing the very coming into existence of the girl child. And what is the guarantee that the parents after claiming the incentives will not leave the girl child at the entrance of a temple or an orphanage or worse kill the child or dump her in the garbage bin?

Ok if all these things can be taken care of in some form or the other. There is one thing. How is the girl child supposed to feel when she grows up & has the capacity to understand the whole incentive thing? Is she supposed to feel normal when she realizes that she is in existence only because of some incentives that the government gave and not out of any love from her parents to have her?

It is important for the government to deal with this problem. Giving incentives may not be the correct way forward. What is required instead is a long-term measure. Measures like education to the children & their parents, poverty alleviation, good jobs & some strong measures to eradicate the concept of dowry in the system.

Monday, March 20, 2006

8th Main, Opposite Mount Carmel College

There are landmarks, then there are famous landmarks, then finally there are famous & glamorous landmarks. Mount Carmel College fits the bill for the last type of landmark. On second thoughts may be the word glamorous should be in Uppercase & Bold, like GLAMOROUS!

Mount Carmel College needs no Introduction. Well definitely not if you are a Bangalorean. But if you are not a Bangalorean & want a little more info about the college suggest you give a “Mount Carmel College Bangalore” search in Google & get your information there. Why get into boring things like the history of the college, the alumni & the courses they offer when the Google Search gives you about 118000 pages of that info. We can better spend the time on something more interesting something more…. Well what do I say…?

By the way here is a little bit of trivia, which you will not find anywhere else. If you have not already given the “Mount Carmel College Bangalore” search on Google, suggest you do it now. The results are about 118000 pages as already stated. Then give another search for “Bishop Cotton Women’s Christian College Bangalore” the result is 21400 pages. After this give one last search for “Jyoti Nivas College Bangalore” the result is only a paltry 846 pages. Both Bishop Cottons & Jyoti Nivas are the other two prominent Women’s colleges in Bangalore. We will leave this here & not get into any analysis. May be you can do that & have your interpretations. Like we said earlier why waste time on…. when we can rather use that time to….

8th Main, opposite Mount Carmel College, Vasanthnagar is like any other road in Bangalore. Houses, grocery shops, utility shops, business establishments, hotels, juice centers & the like. But there is one feature about this road that you will not find on any other road in Bangalore. Heard of how a local economy is dependent on the local factory or the local tourism centers. The same way the economy of this road is dependent on the Mount Carmel College students. It’s a boring fact but a fact nonetheless. But then again why waste time on boring facts when we have other…

8th Main, opposite Mount Carmel College is a nice road; I mean why not, I mean why shouldn’t it be. Yes there are potholes, yes there are blocked drains, yes the traffic there is scary what with middle aged auto drivers & the youngsters in their cars & bikes wanting to get some attention when they are riding. Yeah these are all big issues that the IT & BT industry is fussing over a lot. But we do understand the kind of pressure the civic bodies have on them to deliver & we don’t mind overlooking the problems on this stretch of road. And what a road it is…

OK enough is enough let’s cut the crap & get to the point. I want to ask this question to anybody who can answer. Is there any road on this planet that you can walk on & use as a stress buster? To walk on & not to worry about your pending targets? To walk on & ignore the state of the infrastructure of the road? To walk on & feel like you are in heaven? To walk on and say “God is Great”?
If your answer is NO then come visit this place at least once in your lifetime because this is the road…

If your answer is YES please let me know about that other road immediately…got too much stress these days.

Things people do to be in the good books of a Minister

Today there is a picture in The Hindu (Bangalore edition) where Dr. Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister for Urban Development is being taken to some place and some ladies are showering his path with rose petals/flowers.

Although “Atithi Devo Bhava” has been our guiding philosophy with respect to how guests should be treated, this philosophy sometimes is given too much importance in case of receiving, welcoming, treating our Ministers. Who is Jaipal Reddy? Why does he deserve such a treatment? Who is it that is giving him such a treatment? Why are we stooping to such low levels? These are the questions that need to be asked.

It is disgusting that we resort to such low levels to be in the good books of a Minister. May be it is the people who need to be questioned here. It is unlikely that the Ministers ask for such treatments. It is more the people involved in organizing the events who need to answer these questions.

Also, a question needs to be asked with respect to who are the ladies who are showering rose petals in Dr. Reddy’s path. For all you know they belong to the locality’s government school who have been asked to leave behind their household chores on a Sunday to welcome a Minister. After all apart from teaching students the other default responsibilities of a government teacher is to welcome Ministers by showering rose petals in their path, serve them coffee, go door to door & ask people how many kids they have during census & tick off names from a sheet at the voting center at the time of elections. No wonder the quality of teaching at government schools is at the level it is.

Of course we can never quantify the benefits of keeping a Minister happy. One never knows when it will yield results & hence we continue to please them by doing things like this. Seen how people fall at Jayalalitha’s feet? Do you think they are doing this out of respect for her as an individual? No it is out of respect for the position that she holds. It is out of respect for the power that position yields. By the way falling at the Ministers feet is passé; the new in thing to be in the good books of Ministers is to nominate them to the Nobel Peace Prize. That is what a Chennai based organization did. They nominated Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, we can only wish her the best of luck.

Politicians in India are like Demigods. That is the sad truth and a truth that we have to live with. It is sad that people we elect to represent us are treated like this when it should be the other way round. The Ministers should shower our path with rose petals of jobs, better roads, drinking water, electricity & so on.

This said there are some positive things that the new Karnataka Chief Minister has put forth. He ordered his party men to take off all his larger than life posters as soon as he became the CM. Then a few days later revealed that he would go around the city to check on its issues only in the night so as to not inconvenience the common man during the day.

These are good signs from a young CM. How about taking it a little further & laying down some guidelines in terms of how a Minister is welcomed & treated at official functions?

Friday, March 17, 2006

What is our identity?

What are we coming down to? What is this all about? Why are we encouraging this? Why are we losing it? Is this good? Is this bad? What will be the impact in the long run? Will anything change? What will we be called? What will be our identity?

What is our Identity today? How do we identify ourselves today?

We are what we are, we shouldn’t let things change & our age-old practices become extinct. Somewhere a little bit of us will have to remain for our future generations.

People speak English at home instead of their mother tongue. People prefer burger to a vada pav. Namaste has given way to a Hello (even Hola, Hey What’s up!). Cola drinks are preferred over a Nimbu Pani. Underwear, which was till a few years back a under garment is now out in the open. Holding hands & touching in public was considered taboo, today we kiss & make out in the open. Despite Khajuraho & the likes we never discussed sex earlier, today people are accepting that they have affairs.

Where is this headed? What will be the consequences? Will there be any consequences?

Do we even need to worry about this? Is this a topic even worthy of a discussion?

Are we only lapping up the good of other worlds or are we taking in anything that looks rosy & shiny & tempting? Are we losing our Identity?

What is our Identity?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

B – School Salaries – Is the hype justified?

The ever-increasing salaries offered to B – School students at the end of the placements have become one big media event. Although the salaries offered are big enough to talk about, sometimes the excitement goes over board.

Also, the exceptions are singled out & the averages are ignored. How many students in the leading B-Schools of India take home a salary of 35 lakhs per annum? End of the day the fact remains that the average salary offered is approximately around the 7 lakhs to 10 lakhs range.

The big salaries & the hype about it are good only for two people. One is the student who got the huge offer & the other is for the institute where he studied. The increase in salaries is making the brand value of the institute increase as well. This is where the media should pitch in & put things in black & white.

Of late there is a lot of talk about the CTC. It’s now well known that the salary amount offered is not the gross salary but the CTC (Cost to Company). CTC covers all the perks, benefits extended to the individual, which he can take home only on reaching certain performance standards. There have been a few occasions when the relocation costs have also been added to the CTC, that way making it that much rosier.

The other areas where we need more clarity are on what is the hike a B-School student gets at the completion of his 1-year with the company. It would be interesting to know the % hike. One of the recruitment strategies of companies today is to hike the initial offer to the candidate & not have any hikes at all at the time of appraisals for a few years thereafter. Also does the student stick with the company forever there after? So if he moves does he get a hike as per market standards?

Like a friend who was involved in campus placements pointed out recently, there was a time when colleges (Graduate & Post Graduate levels) were ready to welcome recruiters for placing their students in various companies. Today there is so much competition to tap the best talent first that unless the recruiters plan months in advance as to which college to tap they will be left high & dry at the nth moment. This can be attributed to the increasing coverage of B-School campus placements.

Apart from the news itself, it would be worthwhile if the media presents the other side also to such results.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Morphed pictures – The modern ‘Avatars’

Like all things in life, Technology too has two sides to it. Lets take morphing as an example. It can be used in a disgusting manner or in the most creative & positive manner. If the recent issue of Maxim publishing a morphed picture of Khushboo in a skimpy bikini constitutes as an example for the bad side of morphing, then the variety of morphs we have seen of Mr. P Chidambaram post his 2006-07 budget should be considered the good side of morphing.

One morphed picture of Mr. Chidambaram shows him as the Amitabh Bachhan of Bunty aur Babli complete with the gamcha & the tooth pick (was it that?) in the mouth. Another picture shows the educated Finance Minister sitting on a rock & blowing soap bubbles at us.

Today there are pictures of the American President morphed like the characters played by Amitabh Bachhan from his movies Bunty aur Babli, Sarkar & Black.

The extent to which morphing can happen today is amazing. The morphed picture of Mr. Bush is complete with the Bachhan style goatee and tilak on the forehead. Now, was that a result of Photoshop?

Morphing pictures are like today’s answer to Cartoons. Cartoonists would project leaders in whatever form they desired. Today, the guys involved in morphing can give us the same taste of a cartoon albeit with real life like features.

Get comfortable with the media, Mr. Prime Minister

Mr. George Bush – Smiling, pointing & waving at the cameras & the press. Body Language easy & free. Puts his arm around the Prime Minister
Mr. Manmohan Singh – Smug smile, no pointing at the cameras & the press. Just a small wave, more as an after thought, to the press. Body Language not relaxed.

This is what the viewers got to see after the press conference outside Hyderabad House on the occasion of the Nuclear Deal between India & the US.

The contrast in vibes of Mr. Bush & Mr. Singh was like that of a birthday celebration & a death anniversary respectively. (On second thoughts may be its too harsh). But the need of the hour: Body Language experts should be quickly summoned to provide necessary training to our Prime Minister on how to open up & feel relaxed in front of TV cameras & the press.

Although Mr. Manmohan Singh is known to be the way he was yesterday, that doesn’t mean he continues to be like that. Its time he understood how important it is to project a happy & smiling face to the cameras. We understand that the office he holds is not an ordinary one. That said it actually becomes that much more critical for him to look relaxed & spread the happy feeling around him.

Look at Mr. Bush, all smiles, waving & the putting his arm-around-our-Prime-Minister. It comes across as he is enjoying himself here & feeling at home with the Prime Minister. Just imagine Mr. Bush, very reserved & not freeing up the way he did, what would that communicate?

All politicians who become Ministers should be sent to classes on how to become media savvy. Our media is coming of age, but our Ministers seem to be far behind in terms of how to use it to their advantage.

In the coming days, our politicians will lose/win elections for how they are seen on the media. That is how influential the media is getting today. Of course it’s another thing if people become Ministers (even Prime Minister) without contesting elections (like Mr. Manmohan Singh.)

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