Dec 20, 2006

Dream, Dream, Dream!!!

There is a popular saying that the President of India is a mere rubber stamp to the Parliament. But to define a country's future, having legislature power is not a necessity. This is being shown time and again by India's first citizen Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam. The article I read in The Hindu yesterday exemplifies the statement.

India can definitely take pride for having had one of the most intellectually bright Presidents in the world. He was, and continues to be, a pillar of India's space programs. Not many presidents have their own websites. And even among the ones that do have, very few take interest in its contents. But definitely no president has a section, where you can directly send a mail to the president himself. Its a different issue whether the President can get to read the huge number of emails he will be receiving in a day. But the effort is there. And the fact he reads many of them is also proved on many occassions, when he quotes emails he receives from people and even children. His love for the young minds is well documented and nothing more special than this. Take a look at the President's site:
The site carries not only the usual speeches of the President, but also dedicated sections for children. This page also shows all the questions put to the President by children and his answers to them. There is also a separate section on Mughal gardens of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. This is an amazing addendum to the site. I distinctly remember reading the news about the President instructing the maintenance team of the Gardens, saying that having a garden with just beautiful flowers is not enough. The garden should have a special section for useful herbs that can be of use to research and to the people. Read this news item on the popularity of the site

I am sure nobody would have motivated the youth in recent times as much as Kalam. He has definitely ignited the Indian youth, and made them believe in themselves and the part they have in the development of India. If there is any question as to who is the most popular person to have ever occupied a Government office in India, the answer would be unanimous. APJ Abdul Kalam.
As I have said before, one doesnt need powers of any kind to shape a country's future. Its the heart and the desire that matters.

Here are some of his famous quotes:
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.”
"We must think and act like a nation of a billion people and not like that of a million people. Dream, dream, dream!”
“Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? Is it a legacy of our colonial years? We want foreign television sets. We want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with everything imported?”
“You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”

Having said all this, here is a quote from another contemporary president, "Those who enter the country illegally violate the law."


Dec 11, 2006

உள்ளத்தின் கதவுகள் கண்க‌ளடா.....

Driving 100 miles a day in commuting to my lab, my mind badly needs to be kept awake and my car's music system is indispensable for that. My music taste is very limited and I have a highly selective collection of songs which I listen to. Today morning on the US -33, I heard this amazing song from the movie Iravum Pagalum (1965) sung by TMS and penned by Alangudi Somu. (Incidentally, this movie happens to be Jaishankar's debut). Keeping in with my penchant for philosophical songs of late, this song stuck in my mind. Here is the lyrics:

இர‌வும் வ‌ரும் ப‌க‌லும் வ‌ரும், உல‌க‌ம் ஒன்றுதான்
உற‌வும் வ‌ரும் ப‌கையும் வ‌ரும் இத‌‌யம் ஒன்றுதான் இத‌‌‌யம் ஒன்றுதான் (இரவும்)
பெறுமை வ‌ரும் சிறுமை வ‌ரும், பிறவி ஒன்றுதா,ன் பிறவி ஒன்றுதான் வ‌றுமை வ‌ரும் செழுமை வரும் வாழ்க்கை ஒன்றுதான் வாழ்க்கை ஒன்றுதான் (இரவும்)
இள‌மை வ‌ரும் முதுமை வ‌ரும், உடலும் ஒன்றுதான், உடலும் ஒன்றுதான்
த‌னிமை வ‌ரும் துணையும் வ‌ரும், ப‌ய‌ணம் ஒன்றுதான், ப‌ய‌ண‌ம் ஒன்றுதான் (இரவும்)
விழி இர‌ண்டு இருந்த‌போதும், பார்வை ஒன்றுதான் பார்வை ஒன்றுதான் வழிப‌ட‌வும் வ‌ர‌ம் த‌ர‌வும் தெய்வ‌ம் ஒன்றுதான், தெய்வ‌ம் ஒன்றுதான் (இரவும்)

The song isnt very long. But its meaning just swept me away. TMS is amazing as always. I never remember the lyrics of any song beyond the first stanza. I always listen to songs for the music with the voice only serving as accompanying rhythm. But this is the first time I listened to the full lyrics and remembered it too.
Readers may find nothing exceptional about the song, but I loved it.

Incidentally, the title of this blog is another song from the same movie...

To view tamil fonts properly, use Internet Explorer


Dec 6, 2006

Whose 'CAS'e is it anyway?

It no longer hogs the limelight. Its not about an entire city struggling to meet its daily requirement of water. Nor is it a badly damaged arterial road begging for attention. Its a 'minor' issue in the entertainment segment. And the concerned industry have forgotten about it, moving onto more eye catching stories. But chennai continues to take things in its stride, and reacts to the situation with its same time tested sluggishness. And its people continue to watch the free channels being offered, without paying for the set top box or any pay channels. Its been more than 3 years since the Conditional Access System was introduced, and still nothing has changed.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting suddenly became 'concerned' with the people being cheated out of their money, by being demanded excess monthly subscription rates for the cable TV. So it introduced the 'revolutionary' concept of CAS whereby people can 'choose' the channels they want to see, and thus ending up paying lower. But as with most of the Government implementations, things went haywire almost as soon as CAS was introduced.

First, the promised low cost set top boxes never arrived. A huge initial investment for a set top box is beyond the budgetary plans of common households. The I&B ministry overlooked this obvious Indian mentality in their calculations. The existing concept of Multi System Operators (MSOs) did nothing to alleviate the situation. Having monopolized the cable TV distribution over states, MSOs (primarily Sumangali Cable Vision based in Chennai) took it upon themselves to sincerely implement the directive of the I&B ministry, and proceeded to accumulate a huge stockpile of set top boxes. This, no doubt was with an intent to cash in on the monetary advantage offered by CAS. If they hold a market for cable TV, then subscribers would be forced to buy the set top boxes from them at the price they dictate.

The main aim of the Government was to channelize the distribution of TV channels and avoid monopoly by implementing CAS. Their argument was, if people have CAS then they can directly deal with the concerned channels and just pay for the channels they wish to view instead of paying a lumpsome amount every month. Primary flaw in the logic is the people still need to get the signals. Unless they have some direct connection like Dish TV, they will still depend on the MSOs for the connections. So eventually, CAS changed nothing for the people. They still are dependent on the MSOs.

The argument that they need to pay only for the channels 'they wish to view' got a kick in the stomach when the channel providers started offering channels in bouquets. So a person wishing to see ESPN, cant just buy ESPN. He/she has to buy Star Sports also. And Cartoon Network comes with all other Zee channels. So to see a single channel, one ends up buying all other unwanted channels. And here is where we come to the main issue, of which the Government was aware, but refused to recognize. For a long time, channel providers complained to the Govt., that MSOs underdeclare their subscription base, and so they receive much lesser revenue than they should. In a city like chennai, especially in congested areas, there will be lots of tenaments packed into one building. But the building has one house number. MSOs declares this as one house. Channel providers got paid for just one house in this case, and not for all the connections that go into this single building. With the Government turning a blind eye, the channel providers sought to circumvent this problem by increasing the channel prices, to compensate for the reduced subscribers declaration by MSOs.

After the introduction of CAS, this is what the consumers got in the bargain: High priced set top boxes, high priced channels, and channels in bouquets. With all avenues for the consumers being blocked, no wonder that in a city like chennai, barring a few exceptions, majority of the people opted not to go for the set top boxes. Because after an initial investment of a few thousands, if they decide to buy just the channels they wish to see, they will end up paying much more than what they were paying before CAS, and get lesser channels in the bargain. So heres where the deadlock originated. I&B ministry with considerable pressure from the MSOs ( which stockpiled STBs and so wanted them to be sold off) decided that CAS stays, albeit only in the less fortunate chennai. Channel providers offered channels in bouquets and did not reduce the prices for the channels.

So unless these issues are dealt with soon, there will be no respite for the much maligned chennai consumers, whose lukewarm response to the concept of STBs, will remain as a silent protest to the insensible actions of the Government, MSOs and channel providers.


Dec 2, 2006

Opened sluice gate of memories

Friday was a day of sorts for me. I got back in touch with as many as 8 classmates from school, with one from my kindergarden too. All thanks to the online community, Orkut. It was a trip down memory lane, as we shared our experiences, stories and talked about the time we spent together in school.
Getting to know about them after a gap of so many years was a great joy. It was one of those days, that stick in memory forever.


Nov 28, 2006

Bye Bye friend!!

One guy quipped that this is the worst thing to get sentimental about. Another said its perfectly understandable. For me its the loss of a true companion. My parents informed me yesterday that they have sold the first car we owned, a 1991 Fiat (Premier Padmini).
With my parents not knowing driving, the car was in utter disuse after I came to US, and the end was inevitable. Nothing great about the car (nothing special about any padmini's for that matter). But its the perfect family car for the Indian conditions. Easy to drive, no electronic stuff that goes berserk when you least expect. As I have said many times to my friends, its a simple contraption with an engine and 4 wheels.
But the sentimental value is just too important to overlook. Learning to drive in it, numerous visits to shopping places (and the mechanic shed), visiting my grandma's house, TNPCEE exams, and first trip to my college etc., Even rajinikanth with all his wealth, still drives around in Madras with the first car he bought, a Padmini.
Its highly doubtful that I will feel so emotionally attached to any cars I might acquire. Its with a heavy heart that I bid adieu to a companion thats been a part of my life for the last 6 years......


Walmart in India

Its confirmed now. Walmart is entering India in a big way. Tying up with Bharti Enterprises, Walmart plans to open nearly 100 stores in India. With a potential market of nearly $300 billion ready for exploitation , India is truly what Walmart's Chief of Foreign Operations described as The Final Frontier.

Economists are taking a critical view of it though. One of the major hurdles that Walmart faces in the Indian economy is to lure the common people away from their traditional retail stores; stores they have been a customer of for years, if not generations. In this context, urban cities obviously offer the first easy market segment, as the concept of a super store is more likely to be received with enthusiasm. Cities that already are swinging to the tunes of the IT industry will be the prime targets in Walmart's entering phase. The real difficulty will be in the next stage of expansion when Walmart sets sights on smaller cities. All small stores offer credit to their customers, and this is something that cannot be done by a super store. To attract customers who are used to and also depend upon credit offered by their stores, is a big task for Walmart.

Critics point out to the fact that popularization of the Walmart culture of shopping will result in people going to the stores in their own cars, causing increased traffic in cities, as opposed to the current trend of home delivery of purchases offered by most Indian stores. Introduction of a single multi-purpose store will also result in many small vendors going out of business, increasing unemployment. This was precisely the reason, why the Government was hesitant to allow foreign companies to establish direct outlets in India, unmindful of accusations that they were being over proctectionist. But they recently gave in, with a clause, that foreign companies can open their outlets as a franchisee to an Indian company. This is where Bharti Enterprises come in, as Walmart's franchisee.

Walmart's spokes person was quoted as saying that they are aware of these challenges, and are willing to bend to the requirements of the Indian economy. It should be interesting to see how the concept of Walmart is received by the Indian community, and how Walmart adapts to it, especially in the wake of their recent withdrawal from Germany.


Nov 25, 2006


Its one of the important holidays in the United states. People plan out their thanksgiving day in advance..visiting friends, relatives, or just taking a break and enjoying the long weekend. But a few of the populace indulge in a spree unmatched by even the raging buffaloes of the savannah. Its the time to go shopping.

I first witnessed the Thanksgiving day sales spectacle (rather debacle) the last year. I went with 3 guys, after hearing so much about the amazing sales that would be on offer and the 'great shopping atmosphere'. Staking out compusa at midnight, I employed the by now well honed tactics acquired out of living in madras my entire life, and by passed the 500 odd crowd waiting patiently in the sub zero condition for the shop to open. The doors opened at 12 and what followed was something nobody warned me about. I was caught in a sea of humanity flowing in to fill the vacuous space offered by the empty store. I got trod on, shoved, jostled. I thought that was bad, until I saw one guy who came with me fall down, and immediately two people using his prostrating body as a stool to reach out for some items higher on the shelf!! We decided that any further prescence in the store would result in bodily mutilations and came out to check out other stores. Our next halt was circuit city. The shop opens at 5 AM, and the wise guy who was the 'elevating prescence' in the last store convinced us to join the line formed outside Circuit city. And it was just 3 AM! After nearly reaching the gates of St.Peter, we fought our way into the shop at 5. By this time I got sick of the overzealot crowds (this is really remarkable, considering the fact I spent 22 years living in T Nagar). I have seen eager shoppers, rudely pushing their way through and trampling on my foot before. But never had I seen a violent crowd waiting outside shops for hours and then discarding all respect for humanity and charging in with only thier materialistic aims occupying their thoughts. I made a vow that I will never go again for the T-Day sales.

But again this year, inspite of all my protests I was dragged into accompanying people going to the Thanksgiving day sales. The destination this time was a mall in a town called Jeffersonville, 42 miles from columbus. We were caught in a traffic jam about 2 miles before the mall's exit, and after wading through the bumper to bumper traffic for nearly 2 hours we reached the mall at 1 AM. Like a zombie, I followed the other three people as they raced from store to store in search of blood, er... i mean deals. At 4 AM they finally gave up, much to my glee, only to be informed later that I am only getting a temporary reprieve. They dragged me to Walmart, Best Buy, Staples,etc., The only store we didnt visit was Kroger, and I was thankful to Kroger's for not jumping into this mindless bandwagon of sales in T-Day. Then my compatriots made a solemn vow that they will never come again for the T-Day sales. I guess I was shouting into deaf ears, when I was saying the same thing to them hours before embarking on this journey.

Why this madness? Are these people from somalia, and the United Nations dropping food packets from copters? There is justification in people getting frenzied if thats the case. I read the history behind T-Day, and here is what I got to know: T-Day is an annual festival to give thanks to God, for a good harvest in the last season. And here is the official Presidential Declaration made by George Bush in 1990, "Now, therefore, I, George Bush, president of the United States of America, do hereby call upon the American people to observe Thursday, November 22, 1990, as a National Day of Thanksgiving and to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us." Alright, now did I miss anything? I most certainly didnt. Nowhere did I find any mention of T-Day being taken over by frenetic consumerism. We do find mention of families sitting together sharing meals. But what is now synonymous with the day is hordes of people storming shops and buying loads of stuff, not because they have any real use for it, but because they were offered cheap.

This is consumerism at its best. More search revealed that this is not the case with 'T-Day celebrations' in other countries. The buying power of people, especially in Uncle Sam's domain is being exploited to the core. The festival has now become a commercial event. The origins and meaning of the day are now totally obscured.

Its not there arent any people aware of this. Every year, the day following T-day is observed as a Buy Nothing Day. People against this annual tradition of consumerism, abstain themselves from purchasing anything for a period of 24 hours coinciding with the Black Friday sales. The main intent is to spread across the message of restraint from mass indulgence in unwanted shopping. But for this to take effect, the common people whose minds have been fogged by the hyped consumeristic advertisements of the retailers, must be made to sit up and realize what they have been misguided into believing. After all, there is nothing such as a free food!


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