Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New to the blog world

Attention all Mallu blogreaders out there. Click and read this.
The birthpangs of a blogger

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Congrats again, Sangeetha!

“Special Jury Mention Award” with a cash prize of Rs. 2 lakh awarded to “Charulata…A Sequel of the Life Untold,” by Sangeeta Padmanabhan at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
And when she won her first award

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Looking for a groom for his daughter

A 50 something father of two ladies who is a close aquiantance is frantically searching for the right bridgroom for his daughter who is an IT professional. Given the fact that his elder daughter, who is also an IT professional settled in the US of A, the Mecca of all new age professional, has married into a rich family, he has to find an equal match. And other than finding about a possible bridegroom's character, all that matters for him (the father) is whether he is a IT professional settled in the US, a BE from a reputed institute, his salary, whether his parents are professionals.
And the girl too is happy with this arrangement. It hardly matters whether the boy's temperament suits you, or his character.
Will only having lots of money make you happy? Or are you only successful if you are in a professional making lots of money? I often wonder what these parents and kids think of other people around them who are in other fields or are making less money?
Unfortunately, my mother too seems to subscribe to the view that only lots of money can make any one happy!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Have you seen a time-machine? I have, in Old Delhi.
Well actually it is not a time-machine in the real sense of the term. It is actually the Old Bridge across the Yamuna, the Iron bridge from British Raj.
I have travelled across the bridge many times and it never ceases to amaze me. It is actually two bridges in one. there is the rail bridge and underneath it is the one for all sorts of transport. And it is this fact that gives it a sort of time-machine quality.

 I have seen bullockarts, tongas, cyclerikshawas, trolleys, hand carts, and what not, plying across the bridge. I, in my trusted Yamaha Motorbike, have travelled across it to visit my in laws who were then living in Dr. Mokherjee Nagar in the Delhi University area from out flat in Noida any number of times.
The bridge is a marvel of engineering. Nowhere else have I seen such an antiquated bridge. Maybe, only the hanging bridge at Punaloor in Kerala had that effect on me when I was a child. I have not been to UP by train and so have not experienced the bridge by train. Shall do it the next time I am in Delhi

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Big Brother is watching, Indians

Who said going hi-tech means foolproof?

And has nobody told people here that exposing govt stupidity could land you in jail?
Read this then
Over the weekend, the Indian establishment demonstrated how bizarre the mix of political insecurity, intolerance to criticism, and sheer stupidity could be. Mumbai police arrested Hari K. Prasad, chief of Indian research and development firm Netindia, reports IANS.
The reason: Prasad is member of a team of security researchers, including American computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, who have been working to show that India's electronic voting machines (EVMs), like those in the US and elsewhere, are flawed, and can be hacked, altering election results.
In 2009, the Election Commission of India (ECI) publicly challenged Prasad to show that India's voting machines could be compromised. But incredibly, they did not give him access to a machine. Prasad's team managed to acquire an EVM from a source earlier this year, and soon proceeded to expose security flaws.
Prasad was arrested on August 21 for refusing to disclose the identity of the source from whom the EVM was secured for the tests. Halderman wrote in his blog that early Saturday morning, at 5:30 hrs, 10 police officers arrived at Prasad's home in Hyderabad. They questioned him until 8 a.m., then placed him under arrest and drove him to Mumbai, over 14 hours away by road.
Hari K. Prasad, J. Alex Halderman and Rop Gonggrijp have been working on an "independent scientific study of the security of India's EVMs". On the project's website at indiaevm.org, the team reports that the ECI has spoken of India's EVMs as "infallible and perfect".
Yet, similar machines used around the world have been shown to suffer from serious security problems. India's EVMs had never been subjected to credible independent research, says the site. An attacker with brief access to EVMs can tamper with votes and potentially change election outcomes.
This could be done two ways. One, by replacing parts of the machines with look-alike parts without the involvement of any local poll official. Two, by using portable hardware devices to change the vote records stored in the machines. The latter may involve local election officials, but still be undetected by national authorities or the EVM manufacturers.
In one experiment the team added a Bluetooth module, to be able to swing the EVM's votes wirelessly. The EVMs are "sealed by stickers, string, and red wax", which are hardly any barrier to an attacker.
The team also says that the EC-appointed expert committee, which certified the EVMs as secure comprised people with no apparent EVM security credentials, who did a superficial study based on presentations and site visits. Prasad's team worked with a real machine and demonstrated working attacks.
The team notes that real criminals would probably have less difficulty in accessing one or more of India's 1.4 million EVMs than this research team did. And the real criminals would not be working to inform the public about the security problems.
There are two ways to handle the scientific critic, or the messenger of bad news.
In July, in the world's premier security conference Defcon, security researcher Chris Paget demonstrated how easy it was, using $1,500 of equipment, to intercept GSM mobile phone calls. The US government and FCC could have arrested him. They did not. The demo has been taken as a wake-up call for telecom security.
On the other hand, in China, a critic who demonstrates that a government system is flawed will get an early morning visit from the police, and will likely disappear without a trace.
Are we getting dangerously close to the China model?
There is enough evidence from global research now that there are serious concerns about EVM security. The Netherlands, once fully onto EVMs, has switched back fully to paper ballots, and other nations are contemplating following suit.
It is past time for India to open up EVM security to serious scientific scrutiny, on an urgent basis. In the process, the ECI should apologise to Hari K. Prasad and his team, and appoint them as consultants in beefing us security for electronic voting.
If it does not do this, I have to suspect the ulterior motives of the Election Commission of India, which has been working so hard to suppress information about security flaws in its EVMs, rather than find out how to fix them. IANS

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It can happen only in India!

What start with dogs barking at some boys ended in two deaths, including that of a physically challenged girl.
In India's hierarchical society even an unsuspecting dog must have a caste. So it seemed when in Mirchpur village of Haryana, some dogs of low caste dwellings dared to bark at Jat boys. There was an angry backlash by the Jat boys and counter protests by the Dalit owners of the dogs.
To demonstrate their physical and social might, the Jats rallied around and attacked the Dalit dwellings, resulting in the death of two people, including one physically challenged girl.

The incident strained the sensibilities of Justice G S Singhvi of the Supreme Court who pointedly asked how "a dog of a Balmiki basti barking at a child become a cause of violence and murder of a physically challenged girl". "A dog could not have been killed on this ground. If that was the case then all the dogs would have been killed".

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Russians spend the longest in queues every day

In my school days one joke on the erstwhile USSR went like this:
Tired of waiting in a queue for essential goods, one Russian swore that he is going to Palace to kill the President. Soon he returned. Asked why he came back so fast, he said, "There is an even longer queue outside the Kermlin."
The situation does not seem to have improved after Glasnost and Peristroika, according to a survey.

Russians spend an average of 27 minutes every day waiting in queues, longer than anywhere else in Europe. This statistic is mainly due to huge numbers of people at post offices and banks, a survey said. The study conducted in 18 countries examined queues in grocery stores, banks, post offices, drug stores, fast food restaurants, bus stops and train stations.
The poor show in Russia is also due to the fact that officials at places where people line up "never do anything to reduce the lines", Oksana Aulchenkova, head of Nextep company, which carried out the survey, was quoted as saying by The Moscow Times.

Monday, June 21, 2010

True Dravidian culture

When my wife and I made plans to shift to Chennai from Delhi and when she later moved to Tiruchirappalli, our friend K S Narayanan said, "Go lady, and imbibe true culture!" After spending seven years in Chennai and Tiruchirappalli we found that statement quite meaningful.
Have you heard the word Pandi mentioned while someone is referring to a Tamil? Then the one who said it must be a Malayali. And the tone would have been bordering on ridicule. Once, I too was part of the Malayali crowd mouthing that. Today I am wiser, having experienced the Tamil culture. The Tamils give you respect that you won't get in any other part of the country.
Even when we know the fact that Malayalam language evolved from Tamil or manipravalam, which was a mix of Malayalam and Tamil, why do we make fun of a people who have claim to one of the oldest civilisation in the Indian sub continent? The word Pandi must be a short form of Pandyan, one of the oldest Kingdoms in the country. The Pandyas of Southern India are believed to have been founded around five to six centuries before the Christian Era
While the Tamil language evolved in the third century BC, Sangam literature is dated from the 300 BCE – 300 CE, Malayalam had its origins in the ninth and tenth Centuries with remarkable development in philosophy, literature, education and the fine arts.
While the people of Kerala are losing their culture to other dominant ones, our neighbours have been able to preserve their culture, language and way of life. Go to Tanjore right in the middle of Tamil Nadu. It is the repository of rich culture that is quite Dravidian. The Big temple or Brihadeshwara temple is the right icon of true Dravidian culture. And the Srirangam temple of true Bhramanical order.
On the other hand, Malayalis are aping the westerners unabashedly. And the people of the state shares some of the psychological disorders of the Swedish or the Americans.
While I am not one for clinging to old ways of life, should we be so unabashedly materialistic?
Today, the great career for the Mallu is that of code cruncher. He/she is a churning out software to run the utilities and what not of Western nations. And, if you are not an IT professional earning in dollars, you haven't arrived. You dig?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Transport integration is the key

I now live in the commercial capital of Kerala, a city that I always wanted to live in as it is the only one in the state with a cosmopolitian charatcter.
It is bursting at its seams with overcrowded roads and traffic jam that extends to all its periphery. Even the byepass has not helped ease the situation in the city.
Personal vehicles have increased manifold over the years adding to the urban chaos. The congested roads are a nightmare when it starts raining. Monsoon is a fact that can't ever be wished away from Kerala. Rather than deal with it effectively, the city fathers sit over it and hope that the complaints would stop once the monsoon season is over. On the day it started pouring, I was out of town and came the next day to see a city with the main MG Road turned into an MG river.

I have often felt that what the city needs is integration of all its traffic infrastructure.
And I hope that the Metro Rail never comes for this small city.
A majority of the floating population in the city arrive by trains and leave by trains. Give the nature of the city, this is only bound to increase. The city has two railway stations, Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town. While Junction (or South in local parlance) has two entrances, only the main entrance of Town station is approchable by big vehicles. A majority of the passangers arriving by trains either has to avail the auto rickshaw service or walk down to the bus stops about a km away.
It would be a big relief if the KSRTC authorities decide to have stops closer to both entrances of South railway station. In fact, that is how it is in major railway stations across the country. This would help cut down on number of autorickshaws running in the city.
It may not be yet possible to have a stop closer to the Town station.
Another major infrastructural development would be to move the state-run KSRTC bus stand closer to the South railway station. Infact both the bus station and railway station can be brought under the same roof if authorities will it.
Kochi has a huge waterbody that need to be put to better use. Until recently the boat services were in use. A major change needed is the introduction of modern boats and not the rickety ones that pass off as passenger boats. And better shelters need to be built at the jetties. Additionally, buses need to have a bay inside such jetties.
A common pass for trains, buses and boats would be of much help. This is working well in cities such as London and Singapore.
The Urban Transport Ministry has to work for a change. Instead of separate ministries working at cross purposes, we need to evolve a common unit to tackle the transport problems of this country. Instead of giving clearance to more car factories, the govt should get more bus factories to help solve the shortage of mass transport vehicles in Indian cities.
Even though I love to drive a car, I frequently take the bus in my city as I can have a relaxed journey!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do you believe in miracles? I do

Many summers ago, one evening I was roaming the streets of Paris Corner in Madras/Chennai after office. I go there to buy folders, papers and such stationary. That day, I was in one of the bylanes of the area opposite the Madras High Court (I don't remember which one) when I heard a child crying out in pain. I saw a hardly five year old boy with his hand dangling, obviously broken, and not bandaged, howling in pain. He obviously belonged to one of the families that hang out with a cycle rikshaw on the streets. I asked who his parents were. One of the guys suddenly got agitated with that question. I said we should take the boy to a hospital and I offered to go with them. Those guys simple refused to heed that. And I left after being assured that they would do the needful, which I doubt they did.
Those days I was living in a house in Saligramam, a good 45 minutes by bus. When I reached home, I found the house locked. Those were the days when cellphones were yet to become popular. So I immediately asked our neighbours where everyone was. They asked me to first sit down and have a glass of water before they told me that my daughter met with an accident.
Malavika was hardly one at that time. While my mother-in-law was moping the house, Malu threw a pen cap into the bucket of water and while reaching for it fell in and almost lost consiousness.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law was able to revive her and immediately rush her to hospital where the doctors put her under observation for the night.

And the incident must have happened around the time I was concerned about that street kid. We still can't explain what miracle happened to save our daughter. That was about nine years ago. Today, she is a 10 year old in her sixth grade always watching Miley Cyrus and Mr Bean and quite aware of Orkut and Facebook. And she is always concerned about her fellow human beings. Thank god!

Waka Waka, where is India?

I was chatting with my sister living in Tema, Ghana over Google chat recently. And it was the day after the kick off of the World Cup and she informed me with glee that Ghana won against Serbia 1-0.
Her colleagues at the hospital she is working is asking, "Mrs Manju, where is the team from India?"
India (Lonely Planet Country Guide)
Alas, that sums up India's participation in the World Cup. Will we ever put up a show in the World Cup in the next 10 years? I am sure no. Even though the game is played and the Indian Premier League does exist, it fails to pick up a devout fan following as cricket in the country. I wonder why. Even England, the birthplace of cricket, has a strong team and the name Bekham is on the lips of every football lover in the country and abroad.
Kerala, which was once a football loving state where every street corner in the northern part has a football team, has swtiched its love to cricket. Maybe because there are not as many football matches taking place in the country as cricket.
The fact is I hate cricket and love football, even played it during my school days (I know, it is hard to believe it when you see me with my potbelly and haggered look. I, myself wonder sometimes how I managed to run cross country and karate during my college days).
Politicians want a hand in every pie and destroys even games by politicking. When will we stop playing games with games and actually play the game?
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Monday, June 7, 2010

City of cricket, cakes and circuses

The famed Thalassery biriyani was a let down when I finally got to savour it at Paris, the restaurant in Thalassery town that has been serving the famed food of the Mughals for decades, last month. I was used to the hot fare that they serve elsewhere in the country. Or even the Thalassery biriyani that they serve in Trivandrum.
When we arrived in the first British town of Kerala on May 22, tasting the famed biriyani was on our list of things to do in that town. When we asked around for the place to have the particular Biriyani, we were told and directed to this old restaurant near the bus stand that is reputed to serve it. At the restaurant, which is a bit run down, they still serve the old biriyani, untouched by any modern tastes. There were no eggs to be found in the servings and it was no great shakes. The spiciness was missing as we thought it should be. But what the heck, who said a Biriyani needs to be spicy.
And the town is famed for its cakes and other sweet delicacies, handed down from British masters of the town. It is also known as the birth place of the Kerala’s first newspaper, (Rajya Samacharam) first English school and first college. Herman Gundert set up the first press of Kerala in Thalassery and also compiled a Malayalam grammar book, Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam, in 1859, the first Malayalam-English dictionary in1872, and translated the Bible into Malayalam.
Thalassery also holds the unique distinction of having India's first Cricket Club in 1860. Lord Arthur Wellesley is believed to have introduced this game in Kerala in the 18th century for the British Soldiers who were garrisoned in the Tellichery Fort.
And then Mahe is just next door…
I love my occasional glass of vodka with a dash of lime and ice and where else to get it cheap other than Mahe. I would like to go back again sooner than later to spent a day exploring the watering holes of Mahe from afternoon to late night, guzzling beer and savouring any regional flavours that is unique to Mahe.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cooking is no rocket science!

Until I moved to Kochi in January 2010, my attempts at cooking have failed miserably. I was always happy just to taste the dishes and even write on them as I did in The Hindu MetroPlus.
At best I could cook rice, uppuma, good tea and maybe a potato curry. I love yam and cooks something that is edible but not very tasty.
When it came to my turn to cook when I was living in New Delhi’s Mayur Vihar with a paragraph of journalists and software engineers it was always green gram and rice porridge – easy to cook, anyone can do it.
Even in Chennai and later in Bangalore my culinary skills were not something I was proud of. My wife refused to even taste the stuff I would cook whenever it fancies me.
In Kochi, from March when I moved to stay in a two-roomed flat close to my office at Kaloor, I made sure that I learnt to cook at least, one tasty dish.
My first attempt at cooking non-vegetarian food was beef curry, which my wife was surprised to find was tasty. In fact, she reached the city hungry and dreading to cook as she was tired from the six-hour journey after a morning duty at Doordarshan for which she had to get up at 5 am.
After her ‘good’ marks for the dish, I have dared to cook fish curry and fish fry.
This week I even tried cooking ‘cheera,’ my favourite vegetarian dish, successfully. Last Saturday, on my way back from Trivandrum, I bought one of those Rs10 cook books they sell in the train hoping to learn a thing or two. I am yet to try out any of the dishes described in it.
Smitha Sad, I can see you smiling, thinking it can never be that good. Well, next time you are here I am going to serve you something I cooked.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bonchi anyone?

This is the ultimate thirst quencher for dapper Mallu in the capital of God's Own Country, a state where the majority sex is scared to step out after dusk.
Any guesses as to what this is? Dude, it is nothing other than your lime soda. Even outside the capital of lechers of the world no one understands the name.
In the other parts of the state it is called soda naranga!
Amco Enameled Aluminum Lime Squeezer, Light Green
The only other drink that can beat Bonchi is the Campa cola (they call it Kampa cola in Dilli) mixed with a special concotion added to it that is available opposite erstwhile Fleet Street of India, Bhadurshah Zafar Marg in New Delhi.
All the pan shops in the city provide Bonchi with an option of sweet, salt and also chilled soda. The sound of opening the old soda bottle as the marble pops into the bottle resembles a small cracker going off. The new caps are nothing compared to this.
Even these pan shops are slowly disappering from the city to be replaced with coffee shops. CCD has one outlet in Kaudiar and the two others are near where the techies rule the roost. The first coffee lounge to set shop in the city was a huge success until it had to find a new franchise and then it ceased to exist. Coffee Beanz was my favourite hangout.
But ask anyone what Mallu's favourite drink is and it would be gold old rum (Old Monk)that would come up top.
And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails
I would always vote for toddy, but good old toddy is a rarity in coconut country today. Toddy Brewing Container with Handle

Monday, April 5, 2010

Eco-friendly toys

It was an e-mail from a friend that brought memories of childhood holidays flooding back. The simple toys we used to make with coconut palm fronds was fun. Although it lasted only a day or two it was quite eco-friendly and we had no regrets throwing it away and make new ones later.
Are the net savy kids hooked on Pogo and Cartoon network even aware of the existence of such toys. The simple craft of making these toys may even die out for want of practise. My mother used to say that she could easily turn the palm fronds into the simplest roofing material or the "medanja ola'. But she has forgotten how to do it now. People could easily make a small basked of wicker or bigger ones using various eco-friendly material. In early days such baskets were used to carry stuff bought from the market be it vegetables or fish.
If the fishmongers used wicker baskets earlier, they have switched to aluminium vessels to carry their wares today. Change, when it comes, should it not be always for the better and not just convenience?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Shah Rukh fan in the Andes

Who cares about Thackerays? Who recognise them beyond the Indian shores?
IANS correspondent Viral Shah reports from La Paz in Bolivia that a cab driver there is a great fan of Shah Ruk Khan. Jorge Ramirez, who might be meeting an Indian for the first time in his life, said on seeing the correspondent,"From India?" "Shah Rukh Khan?" Before he ould answer even that, he popped in a CD in his cab's player that belted out "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham."
To be asked about Shah Rukh in the midst of the Andes at the elevation of over 12,000 feet was surprising enough. What added to it was Jorge's excitement at meeting someone who was from the same country and, therefore, by implication his favourite star's representative.
Without understanding a word of the song Jorge was occasionally humming along songs from Shah Ruk Khan's movies.
"I love Shah Rukh Khan and I have seen many of his movies," Ramirez told IANS. As if to prove his knowledge of the actor's body of work he mentioned "Karan Arjun", "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", "Chalte Chalte", "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham", "Kal Ho Na Ho" and "Main Hoon Na".
"I found 'Kal Ho Na Ho' very touching, with Shah Rukh Khan's heart problem. I remember 'Karan Arjun' was about two brothers and a mother. I also loved 'Main Hoon Na'," Ramirez said as he seemed to process the complicated names of movies.
Ramirez said his CDs and DVDs of Shah Rukh movies came from Lima, the capital of neighbouring Peru. When told about the actor's new movie "My Name Is Khan", which Ramirez did not know of, he promised to get it from Lima on his next trip there.
It is hard to gauge how popular Hindi movies are in this part of the world, but if a visit to a corporate office the next day is any indication, their popularity certainly stretches beyond Ramirez. An office worker was playing a Shah Rukh song on her PC!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What is the meaning of interlocutor?

Has the media misquoted him again? Shashi Tharoor is in the habit of shooting his mouth off quite often, rather tweeting too often about things that he felt is not quite right. And as always he has got somebody's goat. Sadly, the former Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations often forget that being Minister of State for External Affairs is a tough job. Even if he is right on some of the issues, there are too many who hates his guts for speaking his mind be it regarding travelling cattle class or on Nehru's policies.
See what his latest tweet is: see MEA website (http://mea.gov.in/) for official statement of denial of remarks wrongly attributed to me by some sections of media.
And there are many even from the ruling party baying for his blood.
In fact, it was a major achivement for the Stephanite from Palghat that, as an outsider, he won from Thiruvananthapuram in the very first election that he voted. After his illustrious career in the UN, few thought he would win from this Lok Sabha constituency. Many had betted on Neelalohithadasan Nadar of the BSP. Even though Tharoor was given the option of coming into the Union council through the Rajya Sabha route, he declined it seeking the people's mandate.
In the event, Tharoor won a thumping victory, defeating his nearest CPI rival P. Ramachandran Nair by a margin of around 100,000 votes (the biggest victory by any candidate in Thiruvananthapuram in over 30 years).
Is it the Minister's fault that the media would not understand him, a doctorate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Massachusetts?
One only hopes that this Minister would not trip over a controversy that would see his exit from the Ministry

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lay Off the Layoffs

I always supported the free market economy. That was until they started laying off employees in the West. they were killing off people's purchasing power that is key to a good economy. How stupid that could be.
The companies that were laying off employees made huge profits is the apt word and were paying some of the top CEOs dream salaries. This was going for many years. And, at the slightest hint of profits falling (not going in the red, yet) they began sacking employees. The IT companies thought it safe.
They made a few costly mistakes when they did that.
First, they lost good, loyal hands. Secondly some of them could possibly go to a competitor taking along with them secrets and possibly skills that a rival lacked. And imagine the money they had invested in the employee during their trainning. It was actually foolhardy to sack people, often destroying lifes, families, careers and future. Even as there are no figures on the actual number of former employees who ended up in the streets in the United States, there were quite a few.
Thirdly, they were extingushing their own life line by sacking trusted employees.
Now, an article in the Newsweek says what I all along believed.
Lay Off the Layoffs

Friday, February 19, 2010

Small plane crashes into office in Texas

A disgruntled software engineer, Joseph Andrew Stack crashed a small, single-engined private plane into a seven-storey office building in Austin, Texas on Thursday morning.
Smoke could be seen billowing from the building, which houses offices of the federal tax agency. Most employees have been evacuated but one person is unaccounted for, a spokesman for the Austin fire department said.
The building is next door to FBI field offices, but the bureau said there was no indication the crash was deliberate.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said that there was no reason to believe there is terrorist angle to the crash.
The official said they were also investigating the possibility that the crash might have been intentional act by the pilot.
A spokesman for the Austin fire department said the plane hit the building at 1556 GMT. He said two people had been taken to hospital, but it was not clear if they were seriously injured. The fire department has cut power to the area to help it tackle a blaze at the scene.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Four wives, 30 kids, another on way

Hats off to 80 year old Hussain Ali, for managing to live with four wives and 30 kids. One realy wonders how he has managed to feed so many mouths. Even with one wife and a kid life is quite a challenge for many in India.
Maybe being in a village in Assam would mean little demands on the man. But I am still wondering how he met the demands of four wives, who are living in separates huts in the same compound. And Ali, who reportedly looks frail and emaciated, says: "Don't judge someone by his weight or height. I am young at heart although I am not going to marry any more and am happy with my 30 children and another that one of my wives is expecting."
Ali lives in Mohkhuli village in Lakhimpur district, about 370 km east of Assam's main city Guwahati.
"It is all god's gift and wish that I have a large family of four wives and 30 children," Ali says.
But the octogenarian cannot remember the names of all his children but claims that he knows each one by their face.
"At times it was hard to maintain the family, but now with some of my sons working, they help us financially," Ali said.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kudos for a Green court

At a time when the world is always taking the fast lane with little consideration for slow modes of transport, the Delhi High Court's observation on February 10, terming the ban on cycle rickshaws on the city's arterial roads "arbitrary" comes as an eyeopener.
In this context I recall the move by the court in reducing pollution in the capital's roads by forcing green buses and autos forcing them to go for greener technologies. The switching to better fuel saw pollution coming down in New Delhi.
A division bench of the Delhi High Court observed: "Planet earth seems to be running out of options unless unorthodox and sometimes unpopular policies are pursued. Whatever be the nuances about the technical soundness of the exact extent of global warming, the signs are self evident - erratic weather patterns, drying rivers and a depleting water table, food insecurity, retreating glaciers, drastically reducing forest cover."
Turning down the traffic police's submission that cycle rickshaw pullers create a nuisance on the roads, the court said: "It would be important for public authorities, particularly law enforcement agencies, to display sensitivity when exercising the coercive powers under various statutes to the vulnerable situation in which the underprivileged populations, of which the rickshaw pullers form an integral part, are placed."
"This is a fit case where authorities should explore all options to reduce road congestion and consider all proposals from an overall or holistic perspective," the bench said while forming a committee to explore the options available.
"Our country is vast with an ever-growing population, alarming numbers of whom continue to swell the list of the unemployed. In these circumstances, any opportunity towards gainful employment, howsoever slight, is worth exploring - it may be part-time employment or full-time, it may be seasonal or regional. If these are recognised as legitimate, the conclusion that cycle rickshaw plying is offensive to human dignity cannot be understood at all," the bench remarked.
Terming that every person has the right to earn their living, the court said:"Prohibiting a class of impoverished persons altogether of the chance of livelihood in a category of non-dangerous commercial activity, i.e. hiring cycle rickshaws for plying cannot be supported as a reasonable restriction."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hey guys, this is great news for you!

Hit the beaches... for the sun. It will boost your sex drive!
A new study by researchers at Medical University of Graz, Austria have found that the levels of the male sex hormone testosterone in men's blood rise accordingly with doses of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient produced in the body after exposure to sunlight and contained in fish and meat.
In their study the researchers found that men with more vitamin D per millilitre of blood had much more of the main male sexual hormone circulating than those with less.
And the average amount of testosterone over the course of the year was subject to the same fluctuations as the vitamin D level. Both decrease from October - at the beginning of the winter months - and reach their lowest level in March because of the weaker solar radiation during this period.
The new findings back up previous research that found an hour of sunshine can boost a man s testosterone level by up to 69 percent.
Testosterone is the most important male sexual hormone. In males it is mainly responsible for the development of the sex organs, the formation and maintenance of typical male sexual characteristics, sperm production as well as the controlling of male desire.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Indians are hypocrites

In 1989, when I was studying for journalism, one of my closest friend was Sezlim Salim. We often shared a drink whenever the opportunity presented itself (which was quite often, as three of us would put Rs.10 each to buy half a bottle of rum. It was enough those days to give us the required kick for the rest of the day). It is another matter that I have lost touch with him, even though I meet him says once in five years. We no longer share the same intimacy that we had during those two and a half years. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he is a Musilm.
We were together in New Delhi for about two months in 1990. It was during the days of the Mandal agitation that I saw some sort of fear in him. He vowed never to return to the city. I duuno why. Thinking back I always wondered whether he encountered some sort of discrimination at the his work place.
Today, India has become less tolerant of its Muslim citizens, who have to prove their loyalty to their motherland time and again. Are the Hindus in the grip of a fear psychosis?
The reaction of ordinary citizens in the country seems to point to that direction. If this happened in north India I could still understand it, for they have a long history of Muslim bashing. They still have festering wounds (for generations?) from the early occupation by invaders to the refugee and partition riots. Even today it is difficult for a Muslim to get a house on rent in the country's capital. It would only have gotten worse from the stage it was in the 1990s when I was a resident of the capital city.
The Punjabis are also less tolerant of people from the rest of the country and practise some kind of an aparthide.
Of late, this north Indian culture of intolerance towards Muslims has seeped into the minds of southerners as well. For instance, Keralites never ever thought separately of the Muslims. People took part in all festivals as one. People did have Muslim friends. But not anymore. The events of December 6, 1992 took its toll. And rabble rousing Muslim leaders also played their part in generatiing in the Muslim a feeling that they are outcasts in India.
With most accused in incidents of terrorism coming from the minority community, people are scared of giving houses on rent to Muslism or even deal with them in the ordinary course of life.
A large number of crime in Kerala is now being committed by people of a particular community. Do you know why? It is mainly because employment opportunity for the Muslims, except in the Government sector, where they have reservation, have come down. Private-run establishments do discriminate against Muslims everywhere in this country.
Even in the media you have only a handful of Muslims as your colleague in places you work. Once a Muslim colleague asked, "You have a holiday for Pongal and even on Christmas. Why not for Ramzan?" Well, I had no answer to that. In the media you have four closed holidays in a year and other compensatory offs. So you know how many Muslims that would be working in the media?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Finnish tourist falls for... er an elephant

For Laura Gafmine, who is working at a restaurant in Helsinki after completing a four-year degree course in culture, it was love at first sight. A native of Finland, she fell in with elephants during a visit to Thekkady on New Year's eve.
The 23-year-old Finn is on her first visit to India. While touring Thekkady, she spotted an elephant walking past her car and instantly fell in love with the animal. In the three weeks since then, she has undergone a training course which now makes her a mahout, an elephant rider.
Her guide introduced her to Elephant Junction, a group which offers elephant tour packages that include a half-an-hour to a full-day ride on an elephant.
"It was on New Year’s Eve that I first touched an elephant and since then I have just one thing in mind, I want to get close to this magnificent animal which is intelligent and of course beautiful," said Laura.
A few days in Thekkady and after observing elephants at close quarters, she requested the officials at Elephant Junction to take her as an understudy with an expert mahout and they agreed. And every day, for three weeks now, she has been arriving at the office of Elephant Junction at 8 a.m. to begin her lessons.
Laura has been assigned to look after a 24-year-old elephant Ganga that she manages alongside her two gurus and also handles clients on the various packages.
Laura says that she cannot imagine living without being close to an elephant but her visa ends in three months. She says she will return with enough money to buy an elephant here, though it will take some time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It is called the Apple iPad!

Dream pad?
Steve Jobs on Wednesday afternoon revealed the much anticipated Apple Tablet. It is called the Apple iPad.
Apple’s founder and CEO held up the device to the thunderous applause of the audience. The rumors surrounding it have been the talk of the town for months, but now Apple has put them to rest. This device is real.
The iPad supports touch input, multi-touch, swiping gestures, orientation detection, and all the rest of the features that the iPhone made popular with users, according to lifehacker.com, a tech blog.
The operating system and software looks like a mix of traditional desktop applications and iPhone apps.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

India will put man on space, but no food for its people

A vast majority of Indians still do not have access to potable water. Many do not have the luxury of two square meals a day. Healthcare in a large number of villages across the country is a shambles. Malnourishment is one of the worst in the world, if not comparable to some of the African countries.
Basic infrastructure such as good roads and shelter is still a dream for many villagers.
It is in this context that India has decided to spend Rs.124 billion ($2.76 billion) to send Indians into space. The country's first manned mission is scheduled for 2016 with two astronauts for a week-long odyssey in space.
We needed satellite in space for a variety of reasons including security. But missions such as Chandrayaan and manned flights are nothing but reinventing the wheel, to say the least.
Of course, our scientiests' capabilities have to be proved. Why else did we have to conduct the nuclear explosions? We have to prove again and again we are the best or even better. But not when it comes to providing the basic necessities of life.
Have we not being crying hoarse about the exploding population? Do we plan for that?
Has Australia, Sweden or Switzerland or Saudi Arabia ever attempted space missions? Do they not have the means? They have got their priorities right. It is more important to provide food and healthcare to your people than sending an Indian to space.
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia had said more funds would be allocated in two phases during the Eleventh Plan (2007-12) and Twelfth Plan (2012-17).
Boy, who cares about those children in the villages and the JJ colonies in the cities dying of diseases such as cholera?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shah Rukh over the moon

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has transcended his popularity on earth and is literally over the moon with a lunar crater named after him by the International Lunar Geographic Society.
The decision to rename the crater, earlier known as Arago B, after the famed actor came following overwhelming petitions from his passionate fans in India and around the world.
The crater is located on the Moon's Mare Tranquillitatis ("Sea of Tranquility) district and was given the designation as the Crater S.R. Khan on Shah Rukh's 44th birthday, Nov 2, 2009.
It is located at 3.4 degree North (latitude) and 20.8 degree East (longitude) on the so-called Earthside of the Moon and measures approximately seven kilometres in diameter.
The official designation of a Lunar crater is a singular honour bestowed upon only a select few luminaries like Leonardo da Vinci, Christopher Columbus, Sir Isaac Newton, Julius Caesar and Jules Verne.
The International Lunar Geographic Society, previously known as the Lunar Republic Society, is the world's largest group advocating privatised exploration, settlement and development of Earth's moon Luna.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brangelina's split denied. Just in case...

Dream couple
I love watching this great couple perform. And their chemistry on screen is unbelievable. If news about their ending their fairytale romance of five years is true, I only hope that they continue to perform together onscreen even after the split.
The news says Hollywood superstars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have reportedly decided to go their separate ways.
The power couple, known in Hollywood as Brangelina, has signed a £205 million split deal after meeting a top divorce lawyer.
They plan to share their fortune equally and custody of their six children, the British newspaper News of the World reported.
The agreement will give them joint custody, the children, three of whom are adopted, will live with Angelina
Pitt, 45, and Jolie, 34, are expected to announced their break-up soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New look Rajadhani for Kerala

Rajdhani Express bound for Thiruvananthapuram now dons the colours of God’s Own Country. It has been painted in the beautiful colours of its beaches, backwaters and enchanting art forms. Kerala Tourism is hoping to catch the eyeballs of potential domestic tourists as the train snakes its way to Thiruvananthapuram and back.
The tourism officials hope to convert these eyeballs into footfalls. But the slogan ‘Go Kerala’ or ‘Chalo Kerala’ does not seem very original. Hoping to reach around 85,000 commuters who throng the platforms every day, the campaign will continue for the next six months while it journeys through Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.
Domestic tourist arrivals to Kerala last year touched 75 lakh.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

He deserves better than this

Honestly, I am no admirer of KPS Gill. I even had reservations about the way he brought the militancy in Punjab under control. But for him we would have lost another of our states and given rise to more insurgency problems.
And I won't ever support harassing women. He pinched a senior officer's bottom and got punished for it.
Now, if they are going to disgrace him further by stripping him off his medals and Padma Shri, that would really be a shame. For, he has done much more than any other officer for keeping the Union of India together.