Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hi Everybody!

To my readers

My last post made it to the in-house digest at XIC without any changes. In addition, my blog was voted as one of the best blogs in the Online and New Journalism module. (Yay!) However, it was also mentioned that it was visually unappealing (Boo!). Therefore, I am playing around with different themes and layouts. I request you to kindly bear with the unkempt look.

Until next time

V Sreenivasan

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Sarcastic Santa writes to the average Mumbaikar

From Santa

North Pole

The last time I sent such a letter was some time back, way back in 1942 to a certain gentleman called M. K. Gandhi. The letter did play a major role although it never made it the history textbooks. I am sending this letter in the hope that what follows will be something similar.

Mumbai is a ruthless city, or so the inhabitants say. During one Christmas season, I was unfortunate enough to board a train from Ghatkopar during the peak hours. Surprisingly, I did well for a first-timer emerging out of the EMU at CST in one single unit. Of course my bones were squeezed for the next few days and my clothes reeked of sweat, and not at all of it was mine. The joyride did not end there as I went to urinate at the public urinal inside the place. Immediately, my nostrils were assaulted by the overpowering smell of ammonia. With closed eyes, I could have presumed it to be a school experiment gone wrong. But ruthless and thick-skinned as you are, even my eyes were not spared the agony of people relieving themselves with absolute indifference, nay uninhibited revelry in filth. In fact, my fellow Santa who was on his first visit to India was amazed at the blood coloured stream that people used to eject near corners. I tried to pass it off as the latest way of graffiti but 15 minutes later he had become one amongst you when he paid no attention to a brawl near a temple. And to think that some people found ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ too much to handle!

After the assault on my senses, came a redefinition of tolerance. In the aftermath of what you people called 26/11, I saw a lot of processions, panel discussions where everybody from Rakhi Sawant to Sreesanth had become ‘experts in the prevailing geopolitical tension’. But in the end, it all seemed a lot of hot air, and wasted time. As things stand today, Kasab is concocting tales more wondrous than Arabian Nights and it is being given a fair hearing by the judiciary. The surprise does not end there as we have established ourselves as the world leaders in promoting world peace. Therefore, I have seen a bald gentleman ‘condemn’ Pakistan in unintelligible English and another in ethnic wear trying to ‘bring the guilty to justice’. But then why do you blame them? After all, as a seventh grader should be able to say- The Government is by, for, and from the people. And how wonderfully have you helped the cause of democracy by staying at home on Election Day? My mood was greatly improved after watching a few news channels which had breathless anchors battling motormouth celebrities and asphyxiation at the same time, clearly providing unintended hilarity. Mumbai makes the boy into a man, and then makes him a eunuch, or what people call a ‘hijra’.

Mumbai is a wonderful place, a place where the rich share the same road with the nameless and socially invisible, albeit for different purposes. The rich use the road for parking their cars, while the poor use it to get a night’s sleep. And when, the ‘sons of the soil’ don’t get jobs, an upstart politician uses that to grind his own axe. And soon enough people follow him, while you the average Mumbaikar remain a silent spectator.

Perhaps you do not need any reminders for this. But like what happened decades ago, you need a revitalizing energy to see the rot, apathy and poison that has seeped into the veins of this city. And then, the change has to come, and come from within. As somebody famously said, a few sincere men and women can do more than in a year than a mob in a century. It is time you, the average Mumbaikar, seized the moment and began a journey that will change the face of this city forever.

With a heart full of hopes


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Book Review- The World Is Flat

I wrote this book review as a part of my assignment at college. However, I intend to modify it in the days to come so as to look like a better blog post


The title of the book is apt because the book is about the flattening of the world and its consequences. The flattening, of course, refers to globalization which in this book is largely about the movement of work caused by dissolution of boundaries and distances.

The book starts off in downtown Bengaluru, our very own silicon valley, titled ‘How the World became Flat’. Surprised at what Bengaluru stands for in the globalised world, the seeds of the book are sown when Nandan Nilekani tells him that the playing field is being leveled. In the next chapter, Friedman chronologically explains the forces that flattened the world and brought in Globalization 3.0. These forces/events include the fall of the Berlin Wall, Netscape Navigator, supply chaining amongst others. He then goes on to explain a triple convergence – a convergence of the complementarities of the flatteners, its awareness and the inclusion of three billion people from India, China, Russia and East Europe.

In the second chapter, the American perspective is introduced. Thus, the merits of free trade and outsourcing are dealt with in this section. The next section talks about Untouchables- those who are not just ‘plain vanilla’ and will remain untouched by outsourcing. In the last section, the quiet crisis of complacency and mediocrity is deconstructed and Friedman appeals to Americans to realize that “Indian and Chinese kids are starving for your jobs”.

Chapter nine elucidates the implications of flattening for developing countries whereas chapter ten gives seven commandments for business organizations to adapt in the globalizing world.

Chapter 11 talks about those yet to benefit from globalization, Islamist terrorism and globalization’s effect on the environment whereas the next chapter talks about its role in harmonizing international relations.

The book concludes with how we can use globalization to create a better world.



Pros: The biggest strength of the book is the ease with which the author conveys his ideas. Friedman’s writing is devoid of jargon, uses simple analogies, and includes innumerable real-life examples of friends and acquaintances from across the globe. For a book that is largely about businesses, corporations and technological changes, the author does a commendable job of steering clear of mind-boggling statistical information and engaging the reader with his empathy, humour and occasional witty aphorisms. For example-“When you lose your job, the unemployment rate is not 5.2%; it’s 100 percent.” – is one sentence worth remembering.

The book is intended to be read not just by social scientists but also by the layman. Thus, it aims at a broad cross-section of readers.



For someone in search of convincing arguments to answer disturbing questions posed by anti-globalists, this book is not very useful. The author sees globalization as a positive force that will be the panacea for many global problems. It is in the tenth chapter that Friedman acknowledges the threat of global warming and also makes no attempt to include the other valid concerns of those opposing globalization.  For example

  • Isn’t ‘flattening’ a euphemism for cultural homogenization, a force that threatens to wipe out most of the world’s ancient cultures and languages?
  • Thanks to globalization, are we not hurtling towards a global catastrophe with three billion all set to become a part of the developed world?
  • By attaching undue importance to exports, are countries not running the risk of losing their self-sufficiency in essential commodities and services?
  • Undoubtedly, globalization does increase the size of the pie, but the question is- What share of will it be enjoyed by the poor, if at all any? Hasn’t globalization lead to an increase in the social disparities? After all, for example in Mumbai imported SUV’s zoom past perilously close to the poorest who have ‘encroached’ pavements as their shelter.

Thus, the book is among the many recently published that have taken a very selective view of globalization and would not be of much use to readers already conversant with the subject.


To conclude, for those trying to understand globalization THE WORLD IS FLAT can be a good book to start off with, but for others it is just old wine in a new bottle.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, 20 August 2007

The cynic is back after almost 2-3 months. Keep coming back as what you are seeing is only a teaser. I will be sharing much more in this intelligent layman's blog after a few days.

Ideas, Encounters and Observations

Realizing that my older posts assumed many things of the reader and demanded a lot of patience from him/her, I decided to make things easier for them. Simply put, whatever I have written here are issues anybody can understand and hopefully like reading. This is in many ways a preview of what I am going to write about in the future. Also I passionately request the readers to tell what they feel about my blog by posting comments with names. It would be a waste of time if the reader has nothing to say after spending time reading all that is written there.

Age is in the eyes of the Beholder: Of late I am seen sporting a beard which has become a staple topic for all those with whom I interact. One consequence of having such an appearance is that I look older than I am. So the other day, I went to enquire about the items placed on the shelf in a mall to the lady arranging them. Not to be admonished by her for deficiency of deference and etiquette, I started by addressing her as Aunty. She replied icily that she was not an “Aunty” and disappeared before I could get my confusion cleared. Probably I did not pay much attention to her face and the fact that with a beard I could have been looking older than her. Customer satisfaction was chucked out of the window.

This has happened a few times in the recent past. For reasons of convenience and politeness I address most people as Uncle or Aunty. Most of them have taken it quite lightly, particularly men, which should be obvious.

Our obsession with the Trivial: A different way of looking at things should tell us that many of the issues and headlines we are debating are very petty. And I am not referring to the trash going by the name of Page 3, Gossip, and Entertainment etc. The latest headlines have centred on the nuclear deal, the 123 agreement, but has anyone asked whether we really need a nuclear deal? Will it solve our energy problems? God forbid this, but what if a Chernobyl occurs in India? What about the radioactive waste?

183 people died in the serial bomb blasts that rocked Mumbai about an year ago. But spare a thought for the those people, almost equal in number, who are killed in rail accidents in Mumbai’s perilously crowded boxes of metal called trains, every month.

Forget a nuclear war, if experts and the pile of evidence they have compiled is to be believed, then global warming will submerge many of the world’s coastal cities in a few years from now. Laughable and lamentable it may sound, but a possible cure for erectile dysfunction garners more attention than the people who die out of such seemingly simple water borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera etc. If newsprint is something to go by, then obesity is more dangerous than malnutrition.

Steven Levitt so wonderfully highlighted it in Freakonomics- travelling in car is thought to be safer than a flight whereas it is the other way round. What we think about so passionately need not be so important after all?

Indian Idol is Indian Idle: How many of you have heard the latest song of Abhijit Sawant? Any idea of those warriors who battled and emerged victorious from the so called talent hunt shows? How many of you have seen A.R Rahman, India’s most respected music director and the man behind many memorable songs, on the panel of the judges of such shows which have attracted TRPs even in the regional channels?

By now it must be obvious that other than generating hype and money, such shows have done nothing else.

Extending this to cricket, I have forgotten the number of time self-proclaimed cricket pundits have hailed newcomers as the “face and future of Indian cricket”. Neither the number of sixes nor the brands endorsed is in any way indicator of a player’s worth. The last time any Indian film was a serious contender for the Academy Awards (i.e. the Oscars) was a Marathi film called ‘Shwaas’ and here we are obsessed with “Rang De Basanti”.

As Warren Buffet so succinctly put it “Opinion poll is no substitute for thought”.

Bollywood: The Fountainhead of the ideas of the youth. I have observed that most of the ideas in the minds of teenagers have their origin in films, which given the kind of films produced, is very deplorable. The electronic media, especially films are supposed to act as mirrors to the society. In our case they are the other way round. If my 7th standard Civics textbook is to be believed, films are meant to be medium for spreading social messages.

Anyways I have often heard the statement “It is because of the politicians”. Great, but where does that take us. For starters, we have to bear in mind that the people called as politicians are elected by us and that prior to election they were one among us. Just as good, bad and ugly as our countrymen and a lot smarter. So in the film Nayak starring Anil Kapoor and Amrish Puri, a utopian world is painted where the root of all evil is the Chief Minister. In one day, Anil Kapoor transforms the State into a Ram Rajya, the ideal crime-free state.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. For many of our current problems the solution requires not just participation but sacrifice from certain sections of our population. It may be even perceived as a zero sum game where A’s loss is B’s gain.

Take for example, the problem of slums on encroached public land. Legally, the slum dwellers are on the weaker side and evictions can only create law and order problem. From where will a state with an astronomical debt of one followed by 14 zeroes get the money from? More importantly where will they be rehabilitated? In politics it is a battle between idealism and populism and an equation of votes. Surely they do eat our resources more than they should but it also must be understood that they must appease their voters to stay in power.

Is is it not strange and ironic that the heroes-heroines and role models who talk about pati-parmeshwar, the ideal bhartiya-nari and one life-one love theory should have marital problems for which the easiest answer is divorce Where else can such double standards and hypocrisy be seen?

To be continued….

Pens: A Trip down Memory Lane

A few days back, I happened to see a pen of the brand name Hero (popularly known as the Chinese pen), with its typical needle like nib, smooth round body and a golden cap. It was ages since I had seen it and I was transported back in time, the time when I had first started writing with a pen, back in 1997 when I was in the fifth standard. It was a time when, for students like me, a pen was as much an object of attention and discussion as it is today for mobile phones and other gizmos.

Back in 1997, our teachers did not allow us to use ball pens thinking that our handwriting might get spoiled in the initial years. Instead we had to use good old fountain pens to write. Gel pens were just making their appearance in the market. Writing with a fountain pen was a joy for me and a pain for the one who diligently washed my clothes.

Early in the morning I would go to the school in spotless white uniform and return with ink stains on my shirt and fingers smeared in ink. A drop of rainwater could wipe the pages clean as if nothing was ever written on them. Writing with pencils would have been much better.

Pens were symbols of prestige and to some extent were like the clothes one wore. So the typically reserved and intelligent students and toppers of the class preferred to write with the Hero pen or some other fountain pen of which they took special care. Then there was a student who was ambidextrous when it came to writing and could write so beautifully and uniformly that it was difficult to make out if it was a computer printout or not. This fellow always wrote with a Pilot pen, the ones with a special ink and recommended only for advanced users who knew how to handle it. For the rest of us, pens were mere writing instruments and thus had no preference as such.

I was in the 8th standard, when Amitabh Bachchan started endorsing Parker Pens. Soon it became a craze and everyone from executives to constables to students in my class had their own Parker. It had nothing other than a curved and conspicuous symbol on its cap which served as a status symbol. In the same year, I met a slightly eccentric character who used to get a new pen every day. In the morning he would start dissecting the pen to understand its intricacies and working and by the time he was about to leave for home, the pen had been rendered useless. In one such experiment I started sucking the ink out of a ball pen refill and before I knew my mouth was full of ball pen ink. I rushed to the wash basin and kept scrubbing my tongue, teeth and all corners of my mouth. Given my fear for such substances, I felt for a moment that my end was near. This did not deter me from continuing my experiments. I owe my knowledge of the understanding regarding the construction of pens to this guy who soon left my school. In the 9th standard, Pierre Cardin made its entry and started competing with the Parkers. Many times our discussion revolved around which was the best pen, the costliest, the smoothest and other details which today seem petty and irrelevant to me.

I progressed to the 11th and then to the 12th standard. During these days it was believed that no study was possible in school and therefore school time meant playtime. So a new game called pen fight was invented. As the name suggests, the aim of the game was to dislodge the pens around you such that they fell from the table or bench wherever it was played. The last pen standing would be the winner. Any number of pens could take part. It was very simple and even more engrossing.

By the time I had come to college, everybody had been bitten by the cell phone bug but I remained immune to it, as I do to this day. Since then I have never come across a fountain pen, let alone someone using it. So to conclude, in this world of extravagance and exaggeration, your pen could be your fashion accessory. It might even tell something about you.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

The best innings so far

Cricket commentators, like politicians, suffer from a common but largely unknown disease called as commentator incorrectness (I am the one who has coined this term). Basically it is the inability to call a spade a spade. The best commentators do not suffer from this disease and speak on terms and subjects which a commoner like me understands and enjoys. The dissection on contemporary cricket commentary has been reserved in this blog cum lab for some other time.

Thanks to this disease, we often hear the phrase referring to a century or an innings “one of the best”, with variations like “one of the best you’ll ever see/ in a cricket world cup/under pressure”. It must be obvious that the title of the best can be awarded to only one and that one of the best can be shared by a few who have to be in a minority. Unfortunately this does not apply to the “great knocks” which we see so frequently.

This article is about the innings, that I believe, is the best I have seen so far this year.

I am referring to the unbeaten century (120 off 133) by Paul Collingwood in the first final of the Commonwealth Bank series against the Aussies.

The background: Australia had completed a whitewash in the Ashes and were all set for a similar performance in the ODI series. England had made an unexpected comeback in the series by winning matches against NZ and Australia. In the final at 170-1, Hayden and Ponting have laid a firm foundation and the Aussies are expecting a score of 300+ when against an inspired English attack they collapse like a pack of cards to end with a score of 252. Australia make the early breakthroughs and in comes Collingwood.

The innings: Collingwood and Bell do the rescue act by stitching together a vital partnership of 133. Bell plays his natural game by exhibiting some classical and delightful strokes. Collingwood compiles a composed and mature knock and along with Bell takes England closer to victory. To maintain the run rate, Collingwood does not hesitate to take the occasional calculated risk when he hits McGrath straight for a six. Bell departs for 65 to be replaced by Flintoff who plays a useful cameo of 35. Along with Flintoff, Collingwood steps on the gas and reaches his century at a decent strike rate. England are heading towards a win when Flintoff and Dalrymple are dismissed in quick succession. England need 25 off 18 when Collingwood takes the responsibility and plays two cheeky sweeps off Watson’s over which eventually costs 12. Nixon and Collingwood complete the formalities to seal a famous win with 4 wickets and 3 balls to spare.

For statistics and reports you may go to:

Why is it the best? It is summed up by the fact that it came against the best team in the world in hostile conditions and helped the team win the match.

The hallmark of his innings was that only (7 × 4 + 1 × 6) 34 runs came from boundaries in an innings of 120 with a strike rate of 90.22. Contrast this with the many flamboyant innings we have seen in the recent past where more than half of the runs have come with the help of boundaries. Years ago, Steve Waugh scripted a similar win in the match in which Gibbs “dropped the Cup”.

I harbour no grudge against the flashier and more attractive batsmen but the point to be noted is that flamboyance and pressure rarely go hand in hand. A good temperament is also a realization of the fact that one bats to win matches and that the crowd cannot be entertained sitting in the pavilion. Not just in cricket but also in life, the people adore the charismatic and flamboyant and ignore the workman. But it is the workmen like Collingwood who come to a team’s rescue when they need it the most. No wonder Sehwag still features in more commercials than Dravid who is “The Wall”. For more on this click on story (Cricinfo-The workman strikes back) I have dugg.