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!