31 May 2005

Looking Around

Xenophobia and the price of populist politics - Malaysia will relax immigration rules to allow migrant workers to visit the country to seek work. Quite a volte-face from their stand on Indian IT workers, in the recent past.

AIDS in India - lies, damn lies and government statistics

“It makes no sense at all to let market forces destroy a precious ecosystem that we all need for our survival and yet somehow we are letting it happen” says the BBC's Sue Branford watching the rampant deforestation after revisiting the Brazilian rainforest after 30 years

Unraveling the truth

Disclaimer : All poetry in red in my posts are ©The Phoenix... original

28 May 2005

canary dreams

the heartless moon stares
across a sea of shining black
while the relentless monotone
of ceaseless blacksmiths
hammer emotions
into begging bowls.

weary desires reach out
to stone the mirror
shattering reflections
to free shards of dreams
piercing my heart
in blue pain.

wisps of haze
escape tender wild lips
laced with the desire
of bitter nicotine
in erupting spirals
of dazzling tungsten.

searing songs of soothing silence
i penned so long ago
gazing the vista
of blossoms in sunshine
the lingering waves of myriad mirages
in wavy curtains of spring rain;

that once danced your brown eyes...

26 May 2005

Replicating the Super Ape

The US House of Representatives has voted to approve government funding for embryonic stem cell research, setting up a stand-off with President Bush who has announced that he would veto the Bill. Interesting to note that the US Government funds research for stem cell lines created from umbilical chord blood and there is no ban on private funding for embryonic stem cell research which is currently underway in a number of US States.

We, the Super Ape at the top of the pile
, pushing another one to bite the dust. Cayman Island scientists are calling for assistance to pull a unique species of blue iguana back from the brink.

Continuing A Walk in the Woods, research indicates that exploding population of the white-tailed deer is eating the Wild American ginseng to extinction in the Appalachian mountains. And no prizes for guessing why the white-tailed deer is thriving !

Money, money, money - US publishers accuse Google of breaching copyright rules through a plan to put university libraries online.

Sunil Dutt (from Mother India -
to sitting MP) passes away. So does, film producer Ismail Merchant, of the famous Ivory-Merchant duo, at 68.

Here comes Hydra - new super-computer to take on British GM Michael Adams in a six-match contest.

Should bosses blog ?

btw, nothing personal - some Mother’s Day photographs.

25 May 2005

potent stuff

Read about FLATHEAD - The peculiar genius of Thomas L. Friedman !

A deep bow to Atanu and in turn, Prashant

24 May 2005

dinner time

Sunday evening outing with friend Amit D - currently a victim(?) of the Summer Vacation travel bug which effect wives and school children - who suggested that we attempt an authentic Marathi dinner. Nothing exotic, something the common man survived on.

We ended up at Badshahi. A remarkable eatery unassumingly located on Tilak Road. i ducked through the doorway and entered a courtyard where time stood still. The place would probably have looked the same fifty years ago. Looking around, Amit confided that some of the staff was the same when he used to drop-in about ten years ago! The place had the same aura of the “pice hotels” back in Cal.

Timeless ambience, complete with a Seikosha pendulum clock above the doorway and framed pictures of Hindu deities with tilak of sandalwood paste on the foreheads. The one which caught my eye had a mustachioed Shiva sitting cross-legged with Laxmi and Ganesh on his lap. Shiva was not his popular blue (neelkanth) incarnation, here was a happy God and a proud father!

And of course, the compulsory Chhatrapati Shivaji in full regalia and Bal Gangadhar Tilak with his piercing eyes.

Thoughtful notices were stuck all around, one announced that the establishment welcomed all men and women irrespective of their race, religion, caste and creed - two copies of that one, prominently positioned. One advised patrons to check the menu and the curry-of-the-day prior to purchasing meal coupons, while another requested visitors to refrain from enquiring about membership(?), as none was offered. i noted that accommodation was available at the Badshahi Lodge and dinner was served only between 8 and 10pm.

We purchased meal coupons and logged our name with a dignified old gentleman in white kurta-pajama standing with a slate and a piece of chalk - there was a waiting list! Scores of patrons sat around, patiently waiting for their call. Out-of-town college students (probably staying in boarding facilities), families with fidgety kids in tow, budget tourists, travelling salesmen, shopkeepers, quiet couples, girls in T-shirts with helmets, young men with shopping-bags loaded with recent purchases and many who could afford air-conditioned luxury, but were drawn by the charm of Badshahi.

As customers walked out, the gentleman in white called out names from the waiting-list, in what i presume was traditional Marathi accent. Inside the hall, every diner sat at a small individual table, lined along the walls.

Everyone was served drinking water in a small gleaming brass pot (i remember an earlier posting on the water-purification capabilities of brass vessels) to be drunk with an equally well-polished small steel bowl. The food was simple, warm, tasty and the serving was unlimited - hot roti brushed with ghee, rice, dal, a couple of vegetable dishes, chhaas (butter-milk), papad, chutney, onions and lemon slices. The entire meal priced at thirty rupees. We added aamras (ripe mango shake). They fed you till you could take it no more !

Returned home and slept early, we had absolutely hogged at dinner.
Somehow woke up after three at night and couldn’t sleep after that. Tossed and turned in the bed for sometime, then gave up the effort and got up, around 4am. The day had been hot - around 38C, but now it was wonderfully cool and breezy outside. Sat reading of Stephen Katz’ bumbling along the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson, 63 pages in about two hours.

The breeze was stronger and day was breaking. i walked out to the verandah feeling the breeze on my face and listening to the sibilant clicks of the sunbird hunting in the hedges next to the parking lot below. It was time to get back to sleep.

Weekend watch : The Man Who Would be King from Rudyard Kipling’s Plain Tales from the Hills

21 May 2005


...read this

trees die easy

We are the champions, our children hardly matter, really.

Reading the piece, i am reminded of Mahathir Mohammad's, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, inaugural speech at a global environmental summit in his country a few years ago. Where he lambasted the West (“developed countries”) for using the bogey of environmental conservation to prevent the Third World from clearing forests and benefit from using forest resources for developmental activities !

Sadly, the majority of our development planning is too myopic in approach to appreciate that the Earth’s forests are a renewable storehouse of resources. We may clear forests - plunder and pillage. But Nature is stronger. By re-investing a small fraction of the money generated and a little time and care, the same forest can regenerate. Forests can be managed to benefit society, sustainably.

The man on the street does not understand nor care about the catastrophe looming large on us, within the next decade. Despite all proclaimed efforts (and after dispatching thousands of Crores into Swiss accounts) over at least the last 30 years - Governmental, NGO and otherwise - we have miserably failed to check our burgeoning population. This is triggering catastrophic crises in the availability of potable water and energy for cooking (forget “kyunki saas bhi kabhi…”) - both in our suburban population hotspots and around the countryside. Why do i care, as long as i made it to “Outstanding” in the annual appraisal ?

And with honourable and notable exceptions - NGOs' big business, the enlightenment to achieve karma! Spare the howls of indignation !!

How about a 30-minute discussion with Dawood (him of the D-Company fame) on the Indian population bomb? To be live-telecast Sunday-evening primetime? Oh, wow! The TRPs will be sky-rocketing, he’s a well-known authority on fireworks, you know !!

To borrow unabashed - “Death come easy if you come before your time, Death come easy to a young man in his prime…”


20 May 2005

Diamonds and Paradigms

Interesting reading in the Obsidian Wings on the mayhem across the world on the Koran desecration issue

The journey to Jurassic Park has begun !

Rediscovered my old and yellowed notebook, and writing of what now seem eons ago. This one’s dated 16 Feb 1985 -

the darkness creeps in silence
until there’s but blackness, all around
black forms, silence and the haze
come together to deceive
throttling out distant lights.

the stars high above
sapphires or fires?
looking down with bleak eyes
throwing just another cold shoulder
and no shadows.

there silhouetted against the moon
are the velvety smooth
creatures of the night
floating on silent wings.

the owl stares down
looking around for the defenceless
shrill screeches and soft flutter of wings
cruel beaks and talons
tear apart warm hearts
even as they throb.

flecks of blood fly
villyfying the sanctity, for eternity
as predators’ rule
the night of the hunter’s moon.

A paradigm shift, as Dada says - the light at the end of the tunnel, is often the headlight of the oncoming train…

To borrow a thought, diamonds and rust.

19 May 2005

Dog, hardly walking

A couple of days ago. Am driving home from work and there’s this gawky little girl walking out her dog.

It is
one of those lanky lean canines, looking like a hound but really is a mongrel-in-disguise, albeit, visibly well-groomed. The dog is on a long leash and the little girl is pulling it to the right of the gate.
But the dog, one of The Maker’s own creations, has a mind of its own. Which has just caught a whiff on the left of the gate which mesmerizes its brain cells, demanding urgent inspection.

By this time i’m turning off the road, to drive through the gate, i honk. A couple of security guards posted at the gate remain gawking spectators to the unfolding drama. 

The little girl pulls the dog to the right, clear off the gate. My sixth sense is working overtime as i crawl towards the gate on the lowest gear. A lanky girl walking a perky dog on a long leash across a gate, spells trouble… the dog looks capable of throwing off the girl with a swift pull on the restrainer.

Curiosity killed the cat, or so the story went. The dog has its long ears up, nose on the ground and inquisition energizes its leap to the left…

In reflex action i brake, the car stops, with an astonished little girl nicely aligned with the car-maker’s emblem in the middle of the front grille… thankfully a few inches clear of the fender.
Meanwhile, the perky young dog is busy putting the carpet of grass to close scrutiny. That’s what it intended to do anyway, right from the beginning of this little drama…
< End of an act of Providence>

Research indicates that women are far more vulnerable to alcohol-induced brain damage than men. The research also indicates that women may be more vulnerable to chronic alcohol consumption.

Tango Golf - my classmate from school, mailed me an interesting reading on Calcutta lifestyle, more accurately, on the Bangali adda, which appeared in the New York Times
(Have to register to read).

postscript - The TOI reports that the Government plans to accredit bloggers !

18 May 2005

stop gap

Hard-pressed for time, so no updates so far this week. Hope to resume my ramblings by the weekend.

btw, critics claim that blogs have nothing to say and are pure self-indulgence !

Now reading : A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

ps - Salaam to globalization, Dada says McDonalds has reached Mathura ! Their Indian expansion plans clearly indicated Mathura (strategic marketing here!) as one of the desired locations...

12 May 2005

Mayaji kahein... (with apologies to all who find this Greek)

“aah”, says Mayaji, “abhee ye CBI mere pichhey kyon ?”
“kyonki main snaas ya bahu nahin, sidool kast hun ?”
“yeh sarasar Ambedkarji ka abmanna hai”
“hum saamuhik aandolan karwayengey, Mahatmaji key tarah jail bharwayengey”
“lassi piyengey…”
“Ram Sing”, she bellows, “aabey lassi mangwao… garmi charh raha hai”

Just in case you had thought otherwise, Ram Singh is your crack NSG commando, part of Mayaji’s Z-plus category security detail.
Ah yes, of course, your tax pays for his salary... and her bunglow, armoured a/c car, air fares and the mahiney ka chhotaasa sale phoon bill…

Meantime, Mayaji on her sale phoon with her persunal sekretry Ram Piyarey, moving the crores from her bank to relative’s and benaami accounts, “behnoi ke khaatey mein bees karore dalwa deyna…”
“sab khaali karwaao, kahin chaapa waapa maarley”

“apnaa khaata meybhi das ek karore raakh leyna, aarey case lipatney mey tow kharchaa pani howegaa”
“deykhlo ee case ka deerekter kaun hain, baat kaarlo, haathwa mey thamaa dow”
“Kumarji ko bhi bulwa lo, abmaanna ka case banwana hai”
“kaal subah tiwiwaaley or akhbaarwaaley ko bulwaao, hum eshtatemin dengey”
“abhi Mohanji ka number lagwaao lok sabha mey suppot ke baat kartey hnai”

You may wish to swear at the scenario, but then we are the world’s happening democracy and Mayaji is the poor elected representative of the mango-people!

Allow the CBI to fret over her, to file a chargesheet which will get thrown out of the courthouse window by the judge in the very first hearing… jai hanuman, long live democracy and the toiling taxpayer…

Further observations on the vagaries of law and the awe inspiring mysteries of the legal system -

Old beyond her years… posted by Medium Lobster
Florida has no parental notification laws. But it does have a Department of Children and Families, and thank God for that : it has successfully sued to prevent a pregnant 13-year-old ward of the state from having an abortion on the grounds that she's too immature to make the decision. Too immature to choose to have a child, but plenty old enough to risk physically bringing it to term, and to raise it in the squalor of state custody. Ah, the glorious mysteries of the culture of life!

Interesting reading from Obsidian Wings -

There They Go Again... posted by hilzoy, 11 May 2005 :
Via Crooked Timber, I see that those wacky guys at Powerline are at it again:
"It's great to see someone standing up for colonialism, especially British colonialism. I agree wholeheartedly with this observation, for example:
Had Britain had the courage to face down Gandhi and his rabble a few years longer, the tragedy that was the partition of India might have been avoided." (quoting
Roger Kimball)
Offhand, I can't imagine why Kimball or Hinderaker thinks that partition could have been avoided had the British stayed a few years longer. The divisions between Hindus and Muslims were deep, and with Jinnah, the head of the All-India Muslim league, supporting partition, it seems unlikely that given a few more years of unwelcome British rule, everyone would have settled down and decided to get along. Nor is it clear why they think that Gandhi was the person who should have been faced down: he consistently opposed partition, and was assassinated because he was seen by Hindu nationalists as having given away too much in his efforts to keep India's Muslims from seeking a separate state.
But it's not the misreading of Indian history that's really breathtaking; it's the phrase "Gandhi and his rabble." Gandhi was not perfect, but for John Hinderaker to look down on him with contempt suggests a level of moral self-delusion that is, in its way, awe-inspiring

10 May 2005


2005 - The Year of Physics : In 1905, Albert Einstein submitted five papers for publication in Annalen der Physik, covering three topics - Brownian motion, the special theory of relativity and the photoelectric effect. Although diverse in subject, these contributions are landmarks in their field and testament to Einstein's genius. To honour their centenary, 2005 has been designated 'World Year of Physics'.

Saturn's pock-marked moon Phoebe could be a comet that was captured by the gravity of the ringed planet. Data from the Cassini spacecraft suggests it originated in the frozen Kuiper Belt - a reservoir for comets. The tiny satellite is very different in its chemical composition to Saturn's larger moons and circles the planet in the opposite direction.

Some tree frogs have a nose for danger, even before they have hatched. The results of a new study suggest that the creatures can detect the vibrations from a predator and hatch early in order to escape.

Red flag on responsible parenting - Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have found 23 girls under 13 years of age being prescribed the contraceptive Pill - two were under 10. The researchers looked at data from GP practices and family planning clinics in Scotland. British medical guidelines suggest that girls of any age can be given the pill, as long as they are thought to be mature enough. However, in Scotland, having sex with a child aged under 13 is classified as statutory rape.

A mystery disease killing people in Delhi has been identified as meningitis. So far 15 people have died and 199 cases reported. However, the Government has denied that there is an epidemic. In the meantime, the disease seems to have reached Jaipur, where a child was hospitalized with the disease

Picked up A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson), For Whom the Bell Tolls / To Have and Have Not (Hemingway) and The Hot Zone (Richard Preston) on Saturday. Should keep me occupied for sometime now.

Weekend watch : No Way out - rerun, saw it many years ago (BG, remember ?) and Random Hearts (by Sydney Pollack) - disappointing, wasted potential

7 May 2005

Times are a'changing

In a landmark Indian space launch HAMSAT and CARTOSAT-I were placed into orbit by the PSLV-C6 launcher

Escape the phishing nets

The continuing plight of the Indian tiger

”we don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee / we don’t take our trips on LSD / we don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy…” sang Country legend Merle Haggard
in “Okie from Muskogee”, his social commentary on the values of a simple rural lifestyle. But we’ve come of age, babe… Michelle Johnson killed and decapitated her 4 year old daughter, then threw the body and the severed head away on the road. The case remained unsolved for four years and was telecast on “America’s Most Wanted”. Police have now arrested Johnson and claim to have solved the murder. Johnson is being held in her hometown - Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA. The same town which had triggered Haggard’s lyrics and formed the ending strains of his hymn

Interesting reading on criminology - computer mistakes lead to fingerprinting system errors costing lives : commentary by Clint Van Zandt

Paradoxically, good maybe bad… Clearer skies achieved as a consequence of effective pollution control over the past couple of decades may enhance global warming! Note…” India's vast brown clouds of smog, which result from wildfires and the use of fossil fuels, have reduced the sunlight reaching the ground

I had referred to the open-source web browser Firefox, in one of my earlier blogs. Firefox has now been downloaded 50 million times since its official launch in November 2004

Ed Viesturs is attempting to become the first American to summit all 14 of the world's 8000 metre peaks.
Other climbers who have already been there are :

Reinhold Messner (ITA) in 16 years 1970/86, at age 42
Jerzy Kukuczka (POL) in 8 years 1979/87 at age 41
Erhard Loretan (SUI) in 13 years 1982/95 at age 36
Carlos Carsolio (MEX) in 11 years 1985/96 at age 33
Krzysztof Wielicki (POL) in 16 years 1980/96 at age 46
Juan Oiarzabal (SPN) in 14 years 1985/99 at age 43
Sergio Martini (ITA) in 24 years 1976/2000 at age 49
Park Young Seok (KOR)
Um Hong Gil (KOR)
Alberto Inurrategui (SPN) in 11 years
Han Wang Yong (KOR)
Source - http://www.everesthistory.com/

5 May 2005

The Dragon has leaped

Rising hazard of chemicals in our environment - A recent study has linked three commonly used farm pesticides to low sperm counts in men in different parts of the US

Junk plastic, start using heirloom brassware in the kitchen - According to some microbiologists, brass water containers could combat many water-borne diseases

What made her run? The power of cheese! Insights on the recent runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks. Now, who moved MY cheese?

For all who dream of the dominion of Indian middle class’ stability and buying power, Newsweek focuses it’s current issue on China’s power, politics and economics. In a nutshell, the Dragon leaped not because of education and dogged discipline, but because its policies went through dramatic transformations. It has focused on development and modernization, with facts and not ideology, guiding the path! And it has achieved these changes without catastrophic social upheavals. As Deng Xiaoping said, “It doesn't matter if it is a black cat or a white cat, as long as it can catch mice, it's a good cat".

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us and the world will live as one... Reflections on the Spirit and Legacy of the Sixties by Fritjof Capra

4 May 2005

life is beautiful

Nutritional supplement - Customer finds finger in frozen custard, he initially thought it was candy! Update on the other finger-in-food incident, at Wendy’s

Sexual predators - one strike or more ?

The Waco chapter of my current reading, “Cold Zero”, has references to Clint Van Zandt - FBI profiler and negotiator, who was involved in the failed negotiations with the Branch Davidians and their leader David Koresh. A commentary on Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing by Van Zandt

Have you seen a vulture recently? The white-backed Indian vulture - nature’s carrion disposal machine - is undergoing large-scale die-off. The reason is not yet confirmed, but theories for the decline range wildly - from the emergence of a new disease, to increased accumulation of pesticides in the vultures' tissues, to the drastic reduction in availability of food. In another part of the globe, aggressive seagulls are menacing urban Britain.

Escalating the evolutionary arms race - some birds are now able to recognize eggs and nestlings of the parasitic cuckoo.

Virgin Mother - A female white-spotted bamboo shark has given birth to two babies,
leading to a rethinking of shark reproduction. The female has not been near a male in six years! About time, as we are probably eating sharks out of existence.

Weekend watch - Pulp Fiction and The English Patient

3 May 2005


The strange case of the runaway bride - Jennifer Wilbanks faked an abduction to run away from her lavish wedding. Her “911call had launched a massive manhunt in Georgia, USA. Prosecutors are now contemplating charging Wilbanks for violating the law, by reporting a crime that didn’t exist !

Threat to Afghan stability - the annual report from the International Narcotics Control Board warns of the risk to the country's stability, because of a near-record opium poppy harvest last year.

Continuing the saga of doctored accounts, discoveries of fraudulent accounting practices at AIG will knock $2.7bn off the value of the world's biggest insurer.

Opening the floodgates of litigations? New York Attorney General sues internet marketer on “spyware”.

Accidental release of genetically-modified crops sparks new worries. i shudder at the thought… who confirms that a lot of our cultivation is not Genetically Modified (GM)? We are a nation where millions can’t have two square meals a day or have access to potable water or electricity. Where millions from public coffers are subverted, from cattle-fodder subsidies, flood relief and purchase of artillery pieces and ammunition, to bloat personal fortunes. We elect convicts, under-trials, screen goddesses, goons and godmen as our messiahs in public offices… who dares to confirm that unscrupulous billion dollar conglomerates are surreptitiously not conducting field-trials of their GM crops across the length and breadth of the country? And in the process contaminating the indigenous genetic stock for eternity? i don’t suffer from a siege-mentality, not yet, but i also have no reasons to drift into sweet dreams… in the assurance that the rice and the roti i ate for dinner was not laced by GM produce !

The dichotomy named India - “teach yourself” computing for rural kids is an outcome of Dr. Sugata Mitra’s the "Hole-In-The-Wall" experiments on “minimally invasive education”.