Sunday, June 15, 2008

What-not Days?

Today is Father's Day, others say and they celebrate. Frankly speaking, this day is a new revelation to me. I've heard about Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Nurses Day, Teacher's Day, Children's Day, President's Day, Independence Day, Republic Day and what-not days?

I think if we flip thru calendars followed by different nationalities in different parts of the world, we might surely come across a wonderful finding: All the 365 days are Celebration Days.

I feel like we are looking out for excuses (read peoples, places or occasions) to celebrate. Hey no! We're are looking out for new and creative ways to allocate quality time with our near and dear ones.

We've become that busy. And we've become smarter too. Instead of spending quality time, we are ingeniously allocating days to specific special persons/needs as its convenient.

By that way nobody complains and everybody gets their own 'great time'! How clever!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Save Athirapally and Vazhachal waterfalls!

What it takes to make a magnificent waterfall a beautiful memory?

Nobody knows it better than the Kerala State government. Their proposed project to set up a 163 MW Hydel power project near the Athirapally waterfalls spending 675 million Indian Rupees is nothing short of doing exactly that. From day 1, since the project was announced it has been greeted by vehement protests from environmental activists, socially responsible engineers, local populace and social activists urging the State government to drop the plan and were lobbying for denial of permission of the project by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India.

Though the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests in a letter to the State Government on March 16 2001, had denied permission to the project as it would destroy 76.094 hectares of forest and 764.972 hectares of estate area in Nelliampathy, the efforts to secure permission went on.

Recently the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on July 19, 2007 cleared the Kerala State Electricity Board's proposal to build a 163-mw dam on the Chalakudy river subject to certain conditions. Though the clearance has sparked protests from environmentalists and scientists, who say the ministry has sounded the death knell to a one-of its-kind riparian ecosystem in Kerala the state government is in no mood to reconsider the project.

We all know how conditions are met when it comes to implementing them. Protesters also fear it will affect 138.6 hectares of forestland, dry up the Athirapally waterfall and affect tribal families living in the area.

The project when implemented would also adversely affect 80 families belonging to the Kadar tribe. The bio-diversity of the area would be destroyed for ever. But what if 80 or 800 families are affected? What bio-diversity you're talking about? What we need is 163 MW hydro energy (experts say the project would generate 26.7 MW only).

In this context, I have some questions: Is Kayamkulam, thermal power plant working to its full capacity? How many of our present hydel projects are working to its optimum capacity? What about curbing transmission losses and proper upkeep of generation systems?

And what's cost of this Project? 675 crores. Don't get into the false belief that the project would be completed by just 675 crores. Earlier estimates were 400 crores. According to Sukumar Azhikkode, noted social activist, writer, educationist and thinker, it would cost atleast 1000 crores once the project gets underway. And I see no reason to disbelieve him. Our experience regarding other projects haven't proven otherwise.

Let our government spend just half of this amount, for the better upkeep of systems for generation of electricity, its distribution, implementation of rules and conditions regarding its usage etc. Let it be done.

Isn't electricity saved equal to electricity generated. If they could do at least this then its a great achievement itself. Down another five years what we going to face is, hike in electricity and water tariffs and, rationing.

What pains me, above all, is the extinction of two beautiful waterfalls, Athirapally and Vazhachal. I don't think that there isn't a single one amongst us who would not love retreats to nature; love spending some soothing, rejuvenating days in the lap of nature. If you don't belong to this thinking, then its okay. Never mind.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Book: Audition - an autobiography by Barbara Walters

No.1 Bestseller in NYT's for two consecutive weeks. That is something.

Normally, I am not the one who goes for bestsellers, howmuchever best selling they may be. 'Coz I just wait till all that buzz settles down. By that time I would have received some 'one-on-one' opinion about that book also. That's make it worth every penny I spend on it besides the sheer pleasure it offers. But with Audition it's the other way round.

It was kind of an impulsive buy. I was little fascinated by the title itself - Audition - something that's quite 'out-of-place' as far as naming an autobiography is concerned. Once the book reached my hands I got into an intuitive mood, to some extent provided by the look and feel of the book: That this one is going to be an amazing read. And it indeed was.

Barbara Walters's Audition makes you feel the personal (its an auto-biography, I do remember)element in it, more vividly and intensely. You feel like you are indeed one of the invitees to her life, private and public. You belong. You relate. And herein lies the secret why this book has sold more than 425,000 copies at press time itself.

Walters's writes about her career, leaving NBC for ABC, mentally handicapped sister, her relationship with her father and foster-daughter Jackie, her childhood and failed marriages, her interviews with world leaders and men (and women) in the news and so on. There are shocks and surprises too. She tell us about her 2 year affair, some thirty years ago, with an Afro-American senator by the name Edward Brooke.

Her narrative style is magical. She has been quite frank and free while discussing about her life and the impact it had on her mind. This is so remarkable of an autobiography. And this does has its 'effects' on readers' minds also: some passages may leave you emotionally drained - like when she tells about her sister and foster-daughter, failed marriages etc. These narratives are distintive for their psychological insights also.

To sum it up, Audition is indeed a much much readable auto-bio. Worth your time and money. I simply love reading it again!

Off the pad: While asked about why she gave such an odd-title for an auto-bio she's said to have told that she been auditioning all her life. That's quite an explanation; of an odd-kind.

Coming: Dharmic Finance

Dow Jones Indexes, who pioneered the Islamic benchmark almost nine years ago has come out with the Dharmic version in partnership with UK-based Dharma Investments. DJI hopes that this would serve millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains who wish to invest according to Dharmic Rules. The indices have been calculated under five country-specific categories: a global one and one each for US, India, the UK and Japan.

Though the concept is simple its practice is little complicated. First issue is with the concepts basic definitive rules itself. Whats Dharma? The definition itself varies, but they found a popular one propounded by Rishi Kanada. Secondly, what sectors need to be included? While for its a 'No-entry' for Pharma coms while financial stocks and banking is in. Socially and environmentally responsible companies would surely find place in this benchmark defined investment portfolios.

Already a 3519 number list of suitable companies has been drawn including 990 from US, 491 from Japan and 249 from India.

The performance of Dhama Global Index, one among the five Dharma indices, have performed well. Its backtesting shows a return of 115.01 per cent in dollar terms compared to 106.62 of the World Index over the same period.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Reality bites

India imports more than 70 percent of its crude oil requirements paying a hefty price at the international market. A lion's share of our hard-earned foreign reserves is spend just for procuring crude oil. So far governments at the centre were unwilling to pass on the higher prices onto the general public for fear of losing support and votes. But now the situation is fast changing.

The Indian government has now announced a massive hike in petrol, diesel and lpg (/cylinder) prices by 3, 5 and 50 rupees respectively (see the chart).

This hike will soon get reflected in higher prices of essential commodities and services. The pinch can be felt now itself. Lorry rental rates have shot up by 75 per cent. In many parts of Kerala auto rickshaws are charging Rupees 10 extra to min charges. Bus fare would be increased soon (bus operators have called for another strike to press their demands). Rice is not available in plenty and the available quantity costs a fortune now. Grocery items and vegetables are hard to come by at affordable prices.

Living is becoming quite difficult in Kerala and elsewhere in India. Inflation is showing up in its true magnitude and colours. What we're going to do?

We are investing. Where? On capital intensive projects and real estate. Plan allocation for agricultural sector is paltry compared to other investments. What would we give for people to eat when they feel hungry? Auto parts and Steel utensils. Well, if mankind has progressed to that extent then, great.

If you think that money that can be gotten through increased exports and that the bulging foreign reserves would come to handy when we need to import food then you're wrong. Wrong if you take into account the ground realities.

Our population is fast rising, our food production is actually on the decline in relative comparison to increase in our population, monsoons are becoming un-predictable, more agricultural lands are being used for non-agricultural purposes, inflation rate is increasing, dependency on exports increasing and what not...

On the whole, the picture is not rosy, though many are painting it in rose for optimism-sake. There was a time when one could buy a litre of petrol for just Rs.28.30 in 1999, if my memory is right. Now a litre of petrol costs double that amount. Tell me a single commodity which has seen a reduction or for that matter a stabilisation in regard to prices. Nil. The situation is going to become worse. Worse than what one can imagine.

The funny thing is that much of this was forecast, years before. That time we didn't pay attention to it. NRI's might find solace in the fact that these issues doesn't have an immediate effect on them. But in reality, they are the ones who pay a much bigger price than their fellow citizens in India. Many of them are working hard in distant parts and adverse climes of the world so that they may have some good quality life back home when they return.

But when they return what might welcome them in their motherland is economic shocks of a different magnitude that would redefine their lives. Or what else do you expect when you need to shell out a considerable sum just for leading a normal life-style: Rs.20 for a kilo of tomatoes, Rs.18 for rice (not the basmati one), a normal GP visit for Rs.150 and more, Rs.250 school fees, and so on.

Don't ask me how much you need to save (or how much less you should eat and spend) for buying a few cents of land and building a house?

If you see this in a different perspective you would not miss one major causative for this devastating impact on our lives: The rise in population. If we can address this issue on a war-footing level then much adverse impact can be softened and lessened. There lies much scope for hope and improvement in our lives.

Human resources are indeed a great resource and a source in itself, but with certain qualifications. We need to realise and appreciate that its the quality that matters, not the quantity.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Toyota Moves Forward!

Reputation Institute, a New York based research and consulting firm, has crowned Toyota, the Japanese car maker as the No.1 in its list of World's Most Reputable Companies. Toyota ranked No.6 in 2007 and 2006 respectively.

Incidentally, Toyota's tagline 'Moving Forward' is absolutely in sync with what they've achieved this year. They moved 5 places to reach No.1.

The top ten includes (in descending order) Google (U.S.), IKEA (Sweden), Ferrero (Italy), Johnson&Johnson (U.S.), Tata (India), Kraft Foods (US), Novo Nordisk (Denmark), Grupo Bimbo (Mexico) and Migros (Switzerland).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Its Show-off time!

Gone are the days when Salwar-kameez-dupatta (SKD) did their beautiful role in highlighting a woman's beauty while concealing what needed to be not revealed.

To do some history-harking, it was the Hindi movies that popularised the SKD amongst the blouse-skirt clad Malayalee Mankas. Anything fashionable is acceptable to us. Thus, SKD replaced blouse-skirt ensemble in no time and the transition was backed by the convenience-factor also. True, many a Keralite lasses had their own tripped-over-by-long-skirt's-hem stories to tell. And stories of bosom-ogling also, though it was practised in a much inconspicuous way by our male-folk.

The ushering in of SKD, I felt was very much need of the times. SKD did what's intended to do. While giving ease in whether at work or at home it effectively hid what had to be hidden in a societal life. SKD made Malayalee girls more attractive and smart-looking.

The dupatta that came with Salwar-Kameez proved handy in many ways: Wrap it over your head and it gave respite from scorching sun; one could tie keys to end of it etc. etc. My aunt even used to do embroidery work on old dupattas and hung it as curtains and ornamental wall-hangs. Those were so beautiful that she got even paid for some. Well, so much of dupatta-talk.

Decades have went by since SKD have coloured our girls (You know, colours was the code for beautiful girls in our college) and men-folk's dreams. SKD has undergone much changes by way of design, cut, piece, length these days and its fan-following has seen manifold increase presenting us with some funny, interesting sights also.

It seems that Salwar-Kameez has split up with Dupatta. Coz' these days seldom do I see the female-folk wearing one over their shoulders. Dupatta nicely hid bosoms from unwanted glances, views and comments. My mom never allowed my sister go outdoors without one if she were wearing Salwar-Kameez.

Given the trend I fear that Dupatta will gradually say good bye to SK. The process has already been set off. First, it's just gathering together of dupatta over one's shoulders. Slowly, it got sidelined to one shoulder with most of it used to cover the hand only. Still, dupatta clung by. Another fashion was to huddle it near the neck (hold both ends of dupatta together and you do horse-riding, by dupatta-harness!).

The new generation seems to have forgotten that with every Salwar-Kameez a dupatta could be used and for good. Most girls these days prefer this free-flowing friend rest in their wardrobes rather than be of use.

Not using them, has not many advantages rather than showing-off the big-two's; if that may be called an advantage. For beauties who'd want to show their bosoms off, I hear them saying: "Hell with dupatta". Meanwhile, bosomy beauties may well wear one for their own 'presentation-sake'.

Off the pad: A friend of mine says Big B*** and teat showing is kind of raw-fashion these days, that's why many are averse to wearing dupattas. Padders also vouch!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

To dear Londoners...

In a reputed daily, I came across these knife-stabbing statistics: 454 kniving cases of which 227 of serious nature and most done by teenagers; in London. Now the City of London is bracing against this menace by vigilant, strict policing and shock advertisements that convey the gravity of stab-wounds and the life of those unfortunate victims.

Would this be effective? I doubt. It doesn't address the root-cause of the problem. It's like swabbing the pus off a wound without treating the septic wound within. The whole issue needs to be viewed in a different perspective.

The answers must be sought elsewhere. Or else how can we expect a teenager understand the seriousness of a knife-wound when he does the likes of it, umpteen times, by playing interactive games, that comes with novel features to maim and kill, albeit they are virtual opponents?

Isn't it naive to hope that an young generation fed of high doses of violence and rage through movies and the like, would appreciate the true value of life and the accepted norms of societal living?

Though these incidents have been reported widely there, such acts are not secluded to that part of world alone. Teenage violence is on the increase elsewhere also. Campus shootings in America were sort of some out-of-movie act for most Indians until we heard such an incident carried out in a school in New Delhi.

Life's hectic pace is taking its toll in many lives, in many ways; teenage violence is just one manifestation of this appalling situation in the life of the society, in general.

What we can do is steer life out of the fast track, find time for loving, caring and sharing, spending some (yeah! the much cliched) 'quality-time' with our children, parents, pals and relatives, and wean our children from the undesirable influences they been addicted to by replacing it with love, affection and attention.

Let's hope and do it, atleast for Hope-sake! Meanwhile pray to God that may good sense prevail in the impressionable minds of youngsters in London and elsewhere...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Secure page and an unsecure page

You might want to know whether the web page you are on is a secured one or otherwise, especially when you want to make OTN (or simply, online) payments. This can be done easily.

See whether the address bar entries start with https:// or http://. If its https:// then its a secure page and http:// hints that its an unsecured one.

Next time, when you make online payments watch out...

Why George Bernard Shaw loves IPL Cricket!

George Bernard Shaw and IPL. Hey, rather than rushing to point out a mistake, anachronistic in nature, read on...

G. B. Shaw, the eminent Irish Playwright and Critic, remarked about cricket thus: "A game played by eleven fools and watched by eleven thousand fools".

I understand cricket as a game played between two teams of 11 players each. So that makes a total of 22 players. I don't know which side's players he's referring to while making that remark. Anyway let's leave it there.

I love cricket, but I should admit, there've been times when I hated the game altogether: when test matches were held with folks glued to the TV screens for days and the match ended in a draw (I've always felt Test cricket as a sheer waste of time and productivity howmuchever the purists argue about its character and spirit). Maybe this could be the reason why Shaw also resented this game and commented thus.

Now that the match duration has been tweaked to the fashion of almost that of a game of football and its outcomes more definite and interesting (nail-biting finishes including), it seems that the game has been endowed with some more sense of purpose and meaning. Above all, the whole game in this format can be viewed more patiently, and without taking day-offs. So this type of cricketing would surely merit Shaw's consideration and hopefully win his admiration.

Had Shaw been living now surely he'd have loved this kind of cricket!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

You've Got Mail, and you don't know you've sent it!

Harini, a beautiful friend of mine, has forwarded me a mail. I opened to see her latest snaps from her Nainital trip. Oh! its not, but a screenshot of her friend's yahoomail page with, with what?

With sender id and recipient id the same. And the mail is a spam! Her friend checked the sent folder to see that no such mail has ever been sent. The content is that of some pharma company offering services to enhance functioning and size of 'assets de physique' of men and women; cool isn't it?

But what's not cool is the fact that mail originates from the same id to which it's been sent. So, what? What's the problem?

When 'X' receive mail which has malicious or obscene content from 'Y' whom he/she is not good terms, problems can crop up without Y even knowing that such a mail has been sent from his id. More aggressively crooked ones can even put this into more misuse/abuse.

So be wary of such mails; and if you get such mails don't rush to conclusions - have patience and give it some benefit of doubt. That help you a lot!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sreenivasan's Pachamarathanalil

Okay, watchable.

If you wish to spend some time entertained with a Sreenivasan movie. Once again Sreenivasan is all over the movie and the viewer cannot be blamed if they felt scenes in which he himself is struggling a bit to get his wit across. Indeed he's struggling to 'find joke'.

Everyone knows movie-making involves make-up men and this movie would rather be more noticed for that aspect; especially, in shots involving Sreenivasan himself. Maybe, he overlooked this, I don't know for sure. But, make-up on the whole, is loud.

The movie is very much Sreeni-centred, it felt. One may easily conclude that he has borrowed much from his career, especially, from its initial years to add gravy to this movie.

Nothing much to say, watch it when you get time. Do not find time to watch it unless you desperately want to see a Sreeni flick!

Economies minus Currency Notes and Coins!

When ATM Cards, Credit cards and other similar instruments were introduced hype was that the age of plastic money has arrived. Now we live in plastic money era.

True, plastic money is convenient, safe (to much lesser extent these days) , easily accessible and handy in OTC and web-based payments. But my question is, has it totally eliminated the need for printing fresh currency bills and minting new coins? No.

Economies all over the world spend huge amounts for this purpose and we still keep large sums as liquid cash in banks and other establishments. Why can't we do away with the system of currency notes and coins altogether? I think there is such a possibility in this digital era. But we need to fortify and streamline the security aspects regarding such an action. Once this been in place and doing what it's expected to do, effectively and efficiently, we can assign one's monetary and other financial assets, in digit-al terms.

Suppose, I own assets worth 1,000,000 million and the financial value, which we ascribe to it in terms of market forces, can be easily ascertained and put into use for day-to-day transactions and other deals. Being 'Value' a subjective and intangible term, the value we assign to currency notes and coins also are subjective, intangible, and fluctuational. So why can't we save and amass our fortunes in terms of digit-al values which might serve the same purpose as notes and coins does. This will save us from the troubles of fake notes and coins, difficulty and the security aspect of carrying cash with person, securing large sums in vaults, money spend for printing notes and minting coins etc. etc.

I think it's time we gave serious thought to such a possibility ensuring liquidity digitally!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Newspaper * Love bites!

I've this habit of reading almost anything that gets by my hand, even to this day. Selective reading wasn't there in my childhood and teenage days' reading agenda. This had its advantages and disadvantages. While it helped enrich my knowledge and vocabulary of the language, it exposed me to news and views for matured minds also. In an age where you are supposed to think like a child or a teenager you start thinking like an adult. This might land you in, so to say, 'politically incorrect' situations, especially when you're treated to a steady dose of principles, values and virtues, through print! You might think I am getting prejudiced here; but its the fact. As people say there's time for everything. So exercise some caution!

In my school days, I would read attentively, even shoddy newspaper sheets that come wrapped over grocery items (in my grandmothers' parlance 'Chantha-paper' or in plain English translation 'Market-paper') we used to buy. Its not that we hadn't any newspaper subscription, (Indian Express and The Hindu, courtesy my Uncle, Mathrubhumi my Grandmother. In addition to this occasional buys of Times of India, Indian Communicator etc.,) but that these newspaper wraps were of other Newspaper editions and from other states that we normally didn't come across. It had some 'exotic' value for me, moreover. Those days, glossy newsprint was a rarity and I used to keep those editions whenever I happened to get one!

My reading habit even brought me close to a girl whom I had an short affair with (not touchy-touchy one) I met her in my college days. Guess where? Right in the library. She, doing her Masters in Chemistry and me, Masters in Economics. In addition to books prescribed for M.A. Eco. students I used to read books meant for M.A Eng. students. These collection were placed adjacent to Science books.

Occasional glances grew to intimate conversations, and later to reading each others' minds. Words that would take volumes of spaces in books were exchanged in sweet whispers in the most silent corners of our library. Her love-talk had the effect of what cool monsoon showers would to a sun-scorched piece of land! When we felt that our love has bloomed like flowers in the spring, in that ecstatic mood we even proposed to each other.

Whatever obstacles (FYI: we had them a lot) may come we will get married. Months went by in quick succession, exams came, only to know that she didn't even appear for it! Meanwhile, a letter, said to be written by her (the handwriting was little similar to that of hers) reached me to that her marriage has been fixed with a relative of hers, against her wishes. All my efforts to salvage my love turned out fruit-less and over time I forgot her for my convenience-sake.

After a couple of months, I found myself holding a wrinkled-but-now-straightened sheet of newspaper showing a B/W photo of my ex-love with her husband; in 3 column cms x 10 cms size!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Higher Education in UK - 2

1. Bath Academy (

2. Bradford College (

3. Cambridge Education Group (

4. Cambridge Regional College (

5. City College of Brighton and Hove (

6. David Game College (

7. Kings College, London (

8. Kingston College (

9. LIBT (

10. Manchester Business School Worldwide (

11. Solihull College (

12. UCL (

For another list of British educational institutions see: Higher Education in UK - 1

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wanna be a Guinness Record Holder?

Wanna be a Guinness Record holder for the fastest sms typed?

Then try this out: The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.

If you can better the record set by Singaporean Ang Chuang Yang in less than 41.52 secs then you may find yourself featured in the GBWR.

Not a real challenge. Then do it blindfolded, in less than 45 secs. Now that's a real challenge, isn't it?

Bangalore's new Airport

The newly opened Bangalore Devanahalli airport is indeed something of first-class, but what baffles me is its location. Located 35 kms off Bangalore city, travellers (both international and domestic) would find it bit hard to reach the city's hot spot in less than 2 in day time given the road and traffic conditions there.

For an international traveller it would be another tiring journey by way of the time taken to reach their hotels or businesses which might be mostly be located in the vicinity of Bangalore City. It should be remembered that a majority of international travellers to Bangalore are visiting the city for business purposes. Being an IT hub, most of them would be heading to Electronic City and ITPL facilities and commuting from the new airport to these areas are almost unthinkable.

Taking Hosur road or Ring road won't be much helpful given the fact that many of the access points to these roads lay in high-traffic areas. So any solutions?

One is to keep the old airport open for international traffic and this would drastically reduce the road travel time for jet-lag weary international travellers. Moreover, this would mean more ease and quickness in handling passengers and baggage both at the new airport and the old one.

The new airport can be dedicated for the service of domestic and low-budget airline passengers and cargo airliners.

By doing so much time and space issues regarding the new airport can be addressed and available airport infrastructure be utilised to its optimum capacity.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Why Practice makes a Man perfect?

Maybe could this be the reason: The more you practise what you know the more you know what to practise (Jenkins). By doing so you earn mastery over anything you practice. At least you'll come to know what to practise.

But Perfectionists please remember: Perfection is not for Man! Again sorry for the gender-bias, mate!

The Onion Trick!

Yesterday, all day I had been wheezing and sneezing to get rid of much mucus lodged in my respiratory system. Blowing nose didn't produce much effect though I did it for long: So much so that I even feared my nose being blown away.

Today, I just had a simple breakfast of a glass of Oats and a glass of milk. The Oats were cooked thick, so glass of milk helped wash down it. I felt sleepy, but didn't sleep with the help of an interesting read in a newspaper; that spouses who fought most had more chances of being together in life longer... A couple of American couples' stories were used to illustrate the point.

The article made me remember an Uncle and Aunt of mine who stay in Mavelikkara. We've stayed with them a lot many days, but we can't remember not one day they didn't quarrel. But their quarrel lasted for a few minutes only and the next moment they can be seen together like Sharkara and Eecha (Jaggery and Fly!).

As it's nearing lunch time, this Uncle and Aunt dropped by, and we invited them for lunch and my other half made mostly Onion-based curries and varieties of salads! White and Red Onions made their presence felt by way of a pungent odour in our dining room. I started with Onions and ended my lunch with... Onions! I am a voracious salad-eater and this time as the salads were loaded with much more Onions than usual I ate them a lot. No sooner I finished my lunch I started coughing, and with those coughs came throatfuls of phlegm. My nose got runny and streams of mucal fluid slided down. To accelerate their flow, I blew my nose with much energy taking deep breaths in between.

To my surprise, I had been discovering a new way of clearing my respiratory system, albeit in a simple, less cumbersome way.

I think the Onion did the trick!

As I write this, I am googling whether there are any similar Onion paens of praise in the web. Presto, I've found... this: Onions contain Nutrients like Vitamin C, Manganese, Molybdenum, Potassium, Phosphorous, Pyridoxine etc. They are some source of dietary fiber, and are rich in powerful, health-promoting sulfur-containing compounds.

Other proven benefits include:

  • Effective in blood-sugar control
  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Gastro-intestinal health benefits
  • Protective against many cancers, notably Ovarian cancer
  • Anti-inflammatory and Anti-bacterial properties
  • Good for Bone health

And for Indophiles: Glad to let you know, Onions were in medicinal use as early as 6th Century!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Project Gutenberg for Free E-Books

I came across Project Gutenberg in the late '90's through the Mathrubhumi daily. From that time onwards I am a regular visitor to the PG ( I started with downloading 'Raja Yoga' from their collection.

Later I contacted Michael Hart, through a contact email on their site, offering my services in the hope that I can contribute to an august cause and make some dime by way of charges for my services. At that time, much time had been at my disposal (jobless in harsh terms, Ha! Ha!) so I cannot be blamed for viewing the whole issue through the money perspective! The 'no money rewards' reply mail had been a big put-off for me, though I wished to contribute some time later.

Now, almost a decade has gone by, since I came to know of PG, I salute the man behind this mission - Mr. Michael Hart- and his crew, for facilitating millions read electronic versions of almost all classics and other literary and technical masterpieces by downloading them free of charge. As I look with awe and admiration at the growth of this wonderful initiative, I wish to be of some use for this PG one day...

PG stats speak volumes of their achievements:

  • 3 Million e-books downloaded each month
  • 100,000 Million titles available
  • Books from more than 50 languages

Check PG out at leisure. You can search books by author name, title, categories etc.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 19, 2008

In the news...Kerala

God's own country is again in the news for all the wrong reasons. This time its around the Swamis.

Decades ago the Kerala Model of Development (KMD) hogged the headlines. I remember, during my college days, we were told many a time, many a facet of this KMD. Though, as I realised later, many of these were not cent per cent true, if one were to do a hair-splitting analysis of the whole KMD achievements, we used to feel a certain sense of pride as a Keralite.

Malayalees , as the Keralites are fondly called, are still considered a unique and special populace for right as well as wrong reasons. Funny and thought-provoking jokes weaved around Malayalees and Malayalee psyche and capabilities were in one way reflections of this uniqueness(One joke is when Americans landed on Moon, a Malayalee came to welcome him with a cup of tea. The 'fellas' were stunned to see the 'fellow' running a tea-stall there!). Though a joke it amply conveyed the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking psyche of Malayalees.

The sad thing now, is the same lot of people, once appalauded and appreciated, is now ridiculed and despised. The growth and development of Malayalees (in materialistic terms) has had a direct and inversely proportional effect in their moral and spiritual lives. This has percolated into their daily lives so much so that they have gone into a spiritual bankruptcy. In this context, the remark of a senior IPS Officer is very in place: "The people of Kerala are willing to get cheated and are profferring themselves to get cheated".

The Swami cases is just an off-shoot of this despicable condition. Ironically, its another Swami's comment that describes the malayalee mindscape in a different light: Of the venerable Swami Vivekananda. Is it that he had the uncanny ability to foresee Keralite's psyche would be, down a century or so, that prompted him to compare Kerala to a Mental Asylum.

It is painful that in the whole melee even the genuine swami and swaminis come under the clouds of suspicion and mistrust.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Higher Education in UK - 1

Aberstwyth University (

American InterContinental Uty, London (

Aston Uty (

Brunel Uty (

Cardiff Uty (

City Uty (

Kingston Uty, London (

Leeds Metropolitan Uty (

London Metropolitan Uty (

Manchester Metropolitan Uty (

Middlesex Uty (

Nottingham Trent Uty (

Oxford Brookes Uty (

Uty of London, Queen Mary (

Uty of London, Royal Holloway (

Sheffield Hallam Uty (

Staffordshire Uty (

Swansea Uty (

Thames Valley Uty (

Birmingham Uty (

Liverpool Uty (

Manchester Uty (

Reading Uty (

Uty of Aberdeen, Scotland (

Uty of Bradford (

Uty of Brighton (

Uty of Bristol (

Uty of Central Lancashire (

Uty of Chester (

Uty of Derby (

Uty of East Anglia (

Uty of East London (

Uty of Essex (

Uty of Exeter (

Uty of Glamorgan (

Uty of Gloucestershire (

Uty of Kent (

Uty of Leeds (

Uty of Northampton (

Uty of Portsmouth (

Uty of Southampton (

Uty of Sunderland (

Uty of the Arts, London (

For another list of British educational institutions see: Higher Education in UK - 2

Project Blues!

Assistant Manager (AM) to Senior Manager (SM): “Sir, The project is almost over; I think we can complete it within a week’s time… with some extra hours put in”.

SM: Didn’t you say last week that many of our people are little over-worked these days?

AM: “Ha, Yes. But Sir, we have to finish this project as soon as possible otherwise…”

(As the conversation goes on, a team lead enters and informs of an employee black-out. SM gives a stern look at AM and tells the team lead to do whatever needed. The team lead hurries out and followed by the SM).

Next day, a senior-level meeting goes on and our AM is asked about the progress on the project by the VP. SM had another urgent, non-postponable meeting, so the onus fell on AM. AM announces with a certain pride and sense of achievement that the project would be finished in a week’s time, though he himself know well that its not going to happen.

After some hours, another meeting takes place, this time with AM doing the ‘honors’. After some inspire-talk and fact and fault finding, he ‘urges’ project hands to chip in with some quality extra hours. The project is ‘completed’ within a week’s time, and news announced with much gusto and pride.

Next week, the much exhausted employees are working to solve glitches their ‘achievement’ (or is it the manager’s) came up with. Meanwhile, the AM is back after a cute little trip to Singapore!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bush, Indians, Food prices and Indian population

"Prosperity in countries like India is “good” but it triggers increased demand for “better nutrition” which in turn leads to higher food prices, Bush said.

“It also, however, increases demand. So, for example, just as an interesting thought for you, there are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That’s bigger than America. Their middle class is larger than our entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up,” he said."

So what will happen when all Indians start eating good food? Would somebody say this would lead to Americans starving...

P.S.: Though Bush's comments raised an uproar and quick repartees in India, his comments should make us think in a different perspective: that there are no effective systems in place to check our increasing population. While India's population stood at a staggering 1.1 billion in 2007, new estimates project that our population would near the 1.8 billion mark by 2050 and would reach 2 billion by the end of 2100.

Take this in the context of a decreasing agricultural activities, unproductive and fallow agricultural lands, changing climate patterns etc.

Then what would our millions eat?

Would we import food grains at a high prices (as the present market conditions show) and feed them? What would be our budget spend on food items alone? How much would we pay in international markets for oil? How much would we spend for defence needs?

And how much would be left in our much-touted foreign exchange reserves? If foreign exchange reserves are used up then what would be its repercussions on our economy?

God save India!

The name is Rajnikanth...

Though he's million-rich he stills sleeps on the floor, uses no air conditioner and doles out millions for charity work. At 58, he is still the baba of action for fans in India and abroad.

Know more about the actor persona, Rajnikanth in his biography "The name is Rajnikanth" by Dr. Gayatri Srikanth, published by Om Books International, Pages 370, Price: Rupees:495.

A good read indeed!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Getting a new Loan or Credit Card!

When getting a credit card/loan, either do find some time to fill up those necessary documents in your own handwriting and take a photocopy of it or fill up whatever you can (especially the indispensable info), take a photocopy of it as well as of the id card of the bearer of the document, in this case, the sales executive. And please do not forget to take a business card also.

This might be of great help should you find yourselves in a tight spot in matters regarding credit card/loan. A friend of mine has a credit card and recently he found a certain amount deducted from his salary account towards credit card payment, though he never opted for the auto-debit option. When enquired, he was told that the documents showed he opted for the same!

The real problem: He had a taken a loan also and the loan repayments were made directly from his salary account. Luckily, he found balance in his salary account statement short of loan repayment amount, much earlier than the due date for the loan repayment amount and saved himself from penalty charges and loan repayment default by depositing the amount that was short.

So be careful when it comes to filling up forms like these...


Anything yours is mine also, and all things mine are mine only!

Are you Gephyrophobic?

Gephyrophobia is the term for fear of bridges or crossing them. It seems I am bit gephyrophobic. ‘Coz whenever I approach a bridge which I have to cross I become little uneasy, restless and anxious. And my state is home to number of rivers and waterways and thus my gephyrophobic spells are frequent, more especially, as I am a frequent traveler.

Recently I spend some introspective time to analyse this peculiar strait in my personality. And I arrived at certain conclusions:

1. Most of Kerala’s bridges were built long time ago and to layman’s eyes like mine not in a “good condition”. Some of them are, surprisingly, in usable condition but I don’t think any expert in bridges would come forward and guarantee their “health”.

2. If you happen to travel by Kerala rivers during summer season, its more likely that you would see the “vulnerable spots” of our bridges, with rusted inlaid iron bars jutting out from the concrete, cracked sidewalls, fully/partially exposed foundation work etc. The undesirable effects of sand-mining which we read in media can be witnessed first-hand if you take out a river journey.

3. Volume of Traffic: The numbers of vehicles plying on our roads have doubled in a decade and the number of vehicles held up in traffic blocks have also increased. Traffic hold-ups in these “bridges from history’ can be pretty scary, like one experienced on Cochin Venduruthy Bridge. You can hear the creaking sound of girders when heavy vehicles drive past you.

Now I surmise, my phobia is not that irrational. The best thing one can do is pray to god each time you cross a bridge and have faith in Him (Some atheists might disagree, but I prefer to ignore them).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Being different could be for good!

Months (or is it years) back, I chanced to read in some quirky mag a quirky info: one of our bollywood beauties, if my memory is aright, Rani Mukherjee, has the habit of keeping few pulls of tissues with whereever she goes. Reason: She fears germs could be in door handles, window panes etc., etc... If you think she does that and she is bit nutty, then wrong, her behaviour is absolutely sensible. She thinks differently and for good!

Not agreeing with me, then read on: A recent survey by a London mag has found that Computer keyboards have many times more germs and bugs than a lavatory has. Many of these germs can cause potential health problems also. Samples from a London office found E-Coli and Coliforms (didn't get, food poisoining bacteria, by the way if you have been Heard Meenachil river in Kerala, then these bacteria names won't be unfamiliar). The delectable germ cocktail includes Staphylococcus aureus (Good for Boils and Pneumonia), Hospital bugs like MRSA and MSSA and enteric bacteria.

Now think of our cute little PCO's or telephone booths: Most of them also should be as good as any other public lavatory, keeping this info in mind. In Kerala, Bangalore, Delhi and elsewhere in India, I have come across many a booths with phone receivers and base units smeared with grime, sweat, paan juice sprinklings and even ketch-up paste. Taking cue from these, ain't I right saying Rani Mukherjee is absolutely right.

By the way, who said beauties don't have brains? Spank him!!!