Friday, December 31, 2004

Kollur - the surprise

At Kollur there is a bus stand. Quite a big one, though there aren't many buses. But good planning considering that the number of buses will go up as the temple gains in popularity. The surprise was the immaculately maintained toilets for gents and ladies. It has a 5-star look about it. I was so impressed that I told the man at the counter outside (where he collects Rs 2 per person), "The toilet is maintained very well. Good to see it this way..."

But the man looked the other way. Probably, he thought I was making fun of him. Never any one would have complimented him this way. I persisted and said, "Usually, public toilets are so dirty, it feels so nice to see a place a like this. Who maintains this?"

Then he seemed to realise that I was serious. "Tourism department," he said. But there wasn't anything writtent to indicate that. I then asked him how much should I pay. He said, "People like you who understand ('samachdar log') take care to pay. Many people who come here refuse to pay and I have to fight with them. They should understand that it is their toilet and they have to participate in a small way to keep it clean. I am happy that you understand it..."

Then I said paying is not a problem. It is disgusting when inspite of paying the toilets are poorly maintained. The man was so visibly happy that I made this little comment about cleanliness. After I paid the fare, he thanked me profusely.

Kollur - first impression

May be my expectations were very different. Kollur isn't like Tirumala where you also get breathtaking views of the surrounding scenic beauty. There wasn't also the sort of milling crowd I thought there would be. When we went in for darshan at 9 am there was a long queue of some 200 odd devotees, many of them school children. Within an hour there were just a few dozen people, that we went in again and again for darshan, just going to the nearby temple out here.

The temple may be very old and grand, but the place, Kollur, is the typical small temple village. It's tucked away in a forest at the foothills of Kodachadri and on the banks of Souparnika. Typical old houses, lots of trees, shrubs and herbs. Narrow and undulating roads. In some ways it took me back to my father's home town of North Parur in Ernakulam district. Incidentally, Parur is the only place, other than Kollur, in the country where there is a temple of Mookambika Devi.

This is supposed to be a very old temple. I was told that only recently good guest houses and hotels came up. Until then people used to stay at Udupi or Kondapur and make a trip to Kollur. It is growing in popularity. With more popularity more people may flock in, and there will be chances of the place become dirty. The administration should be alert to that.

Kollur has a special significance for Keralites. The Mookambika Devi is the household deity in many Kerala homes. I don't know if it is because of the association of Adi Shankaracharya of Kaladi with the Kollur temple. Mookambika Devi is supposed to have appeared before Adi Shankara, and he is said to have installed the idol of the goddess.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami - three days hence

Today is the third day after the Black Sunday. The toll is said to be 65,000. When the news of earthquake in Chennai broke on Sunday morning I was busy setting things up for a family function here. And as I am on leave, I had to follow the events on TV, and in between the personal preoccupations. It has been a tale of suffering, still continuing. Some of the films of slamming waves shot by tourists in a hotel in Phuket, Thailand and in Galle, Sri Lanka are just numbing. Tell tale pictures.

Events such as these are no doubut tragic. But for a journalist they are also very challenging part of their work. In that sense, I am missing my newsroom in the office.

I read that the US and Canada have equipment to monitor activities on the sea bed. They had them as early as 1965. Here we are nearly 40 years later, with no such equipment. Today's reports say that India was even offered some of them. Expensive as these equipments are, and occurence of Tsunamis being rare, the Indian government preferred to keep itself busy with other pressing needs. Yesterday, Kapil Sibal was heard saying that the government is now considering to import these equipment. Better late than never.

I am off to Kolur Mookambika temple this evening.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Narasimha Rao's death

Narasimha Rao's death seems to be going almost unnoticed! There aren't many people talking about it. Maybe because he was a PM only for five years, and he was not charismatic.

But, he was
- a non-contender who became PM
- the first non-Congress PM outside Nehru clan to rule for 5 full years
- head of a minority government but managed to last a full term
- bold enough to appoint a technocrat like Manmohan and give him a carte blanche on economic reforms
- one of the few PMs to preside over a momentous time: India's trasition to market economy
- the PM when Babri Masjid was pulled down
- an erudite and scholarly PM unlike other politicians.

His obvious legacy is unshackling of the economy and the benefits of private enterprise that we are enjoying. Some say economic reforms would have happened anyway since its time had come; that it happened not because of Rao. I would disagree. There are many nations around the world which have simply not moved with the times. Kerala is an example where disruptive trade union politics still rules the roost even though socialist nations themselves have bid goodbye to the type of unions we have known.

By the way, this year has seen a number of prominent people passing away:
Suraiya - Jan 31

Kelucharan Mohapatra - April 7
Dom Moraes - June 2
Ronald Reagan - June 5
Yash Johar - June 26
Marlon Brando - July 2
Mehmood - July 24
Nafisa Joseph - July 29
Raja Rammana -Sep 24
Shobha Gurtu - Sep 27
Mulk Raj Anand - Sep 28
Christopher Reeves - Oct 11
Nirupa Roy - Oct 13
Yasser Arafat - Nov 11
M.S. Subbhalaxmi - Dec 11
Narasmimha Rao - Dec 23

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Time's Blog of the Year

Time magazine announces every year "The Person of the Year". This year it also announced "The Blog of the Year". It has gone to Power Line. This is one blog that is trying to challenge the established media like print, radio and TV.

It was Power Line that ended the journalistic career of the celebrated CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather -- who is seen as a survivor of the higest order, having lasted a record 24 years despite repeated attempts to unseat him by people inside and outside CBS.

But one story of Rather -- during the Presidential campaign, -- that questioned Bush's National Guard service during Vietnam war, has proved to be his Nemesis. It was Power Line that reported that some of the documents Rather used to base his story were dubious. It soon snowballed into a controversy.

Yesterday (Tuesday), CBS television and Dan Rather
announced that the anchor will leave CBS on March 9 . That will be 24 years to the day he succeeded the avuncular Walter Cronkite in CBS's anchor chair.

"It's time to move on ... It has been and remains an honor to be welcomed into your home each evening," Rather told viewers of his newscast on Tuesday night. "I thank you for the trust you've given me."

Of course, neither CBS nor Rather say his departure is related to the scandal.

From Outsourcing to Homesourcing

We have had enough of outsourcing, haven't we? Now comes homesourcing. This is catching on the US. What companies are discovering is instead of getting jobs done by Indians, Chinese or whoever, get it done by Americans themselves. But they will work from their homes and not offices.

Which means the person who is going to help you out with your credit card problems or computer malfunctioning may well be in his or her night dress on the bed!

This trend has been reported in a
press release issued by IDC which is a global market intelligence and advisory firm in IT and telecom industries.

Some consolation for Americans who are worried that jobs are going out of the US. Not just the loss of jobs. Outsourcing was at one point some sort of a joke in the US and the UK, since many felt people in Bangalore or Chennai or Mumbai are just not familiar with the US or the UK to help out -- like when British Railways outsourced part of its work to Bangalore. Apparently, following widespread complaints, Dell stopped sending US technical support calls for two of its corporate computer lines to a Bangalore call centre last year.

Proponents of homeshoring or homesourcing say it is in tune with giving more flexibility to workers in the way they do their jobs. They say productivity goes up.

But, I think as long as outsourcing to Bangalore or anywhere makes better economic sense to comapnies, it will stay.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Two lives gone: their Time had come

On Saturday, the 18th, we had this tragic incident of a student of Mount Carmel College being run over and killed on the spot by a truck. It happened as she was crossing the road right outside the college. The incident has focussed attention on the chaotic traffic in Bangalore and the need for regulation that is badly lacking in the city, be it traffic or education or construction of buildings.

Pondering over the tragedy, I realise how each one on Earth has a Time allotted. When the Time comes we go. Whatever we may be doing. It may sound fatalistic. But what else? I was just seeing the multitude of people and vehicles on the road. Life is no normal, is it not?

Just that she was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A life gone. For, the Time had come.

Today evening, I heard of another incident. Four boys and four girls of a city college went for a picnic to a place called Chunchi Falls some 120 km from Bangalore. On the top of the hill, one of them slipped and fell down. The place was so remote the others couldn't even call Bangalore for help immediately, even though chances of any rescue were so remote. The place was such that even divers refused to go in, instead they went to the other end, hoping the body will surface there. It did after two days.

He is from Kolkata. His elder sister is mentally challenged, and the family was pinning hopes on this boy. And, he was living up to their expectations -- he was good at studies and among the toppers. His teacher was telling me, he was not the type you expect would get into trouble. She was explaining the complications after the incident, since the police wouldn't rule out that it wasn't an accident. How do we know they weren't drunk? How do we know they didn't have a quarrel and he was pushed? All sorts of questions. And, the worst: why four boys and four girls should go to such a remote place? And the police had to be paid, so that all unnecessary, but very plausible (according to them), angles are not opened and investigated.

And, life goes on doesn't it?

Just that he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Another life gone. For, the Time had come.

Technology pangs

A boy of a posh Delhi school shoots on video sexually explicit pictures with a girl-classmate. He sends to a few friends, more as an evidence of his bravado. It later lands up with a IIT student in Kharagpur, in the Delhi market and later on an auction site. All hell breaks loose. The portal is also in trouble, though they say for no reason.

One, this needs to seen more as birth-pangs of technology, than anything else. It should be remembered that it is difficult to send this two-and-a-half minute clip on mobiles. It is a very high-end operation. Let us not get into this impression that such incidents are going to be rampant.

Secondly, and more importantly, we should come to terms with today's information revolution. Shooting of such photos is one thing which should be dealt with separately. The other thing is the availability of such material on mobiles and internet. There are plenty of wallpapers and the like of similar content available for download. There should also a relook on the hauling up of Baazee. There are plenty of porn stuff available for purchase on the net.

Why pick on Internet when similar stuff is available in print and video all over. The unique nature of Internet needs to recognised, especially with regard to the freedom to post information and access them too. That's an advantage, which no mass medium has. India's IT Acts too need to be looked at from this angle.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Stolen foetus found alive

This is truly bizarre. Crime has invaded the womb.

A 23-year-old woman was murdered and her 8-month old female foetus stolen in Missouri. Luckly the baby was found alive and a 36-year-old woman

Friday, December 17, 2004

The smooch debate

Privacy is back in public.

No, there is nothing like privacy in public, so says one section. Yes, even in public there is room for privacy says the other section.

The issue is Mid-Day publishing photos of Shahid and Kareena smooching during a party.
They deny they ever did it, are suing the daily. But the publication stands by the story.

For purposes for debate let us assume the paper is right.

It is really difficult to conceive how a party hall can be a private place. It is public. It's not that the camera had invaded their bedroom or bathroom.

What's newsy in the photo? That's the other question. The word news has a number of definitions. One of them is "an event that is interesting, or attracting the attention of the reader". And, the definition also depends upon the publication. What is news for a science journal, is no news for a film journal.

The very fact that the photo has created such a ruckus is proof that there is a good element of news! To say such photos don't attract (a good many) readers' attention is very far from truth.

The problem as I see it is not in smooching, it is also not in publishing the photo either. It is in the way we react.

If such a thing had indeed happened, the couple should have just asked, "So, what is big deal!" And just kept quiet. And, the public who had a good look at the photo, should have just seen it and also kept quiet realising well that we are all very human.

Don't you thing we should all be much more angry about many inhuman things that happen around us?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Finally, Karnataka has a govt

Karnataka cabinet has been finally expanded and ministers handed out portfolios. Now, hopefully, there will be some administration, worth its name. Bangalore has particularly suffered because of non-administration.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Stupid questions

This afternoon I went to the Barton Centre. (That's a commercial complex housing shops and offices on M G Road in Bangalore.)

As I was coming down the lift from the seventh floor, I overheard this conversation between two young women who were standing beside me.
"What questions they asked ...?" 

"I can understand if they had asked something on customer care, how to take care of the customers' questions ..." 

"... or even regarding the bank ... I would have got full marks..." 

"What was that ... that footballer who died on the field ..."

"Who will know ...." 

"Why should they ask all these questions ..." 

"Yea ... that Indian woman who went to space and died before coming back to earth ..."

"Really stupid questions..." 
By then the lift reached the ground floor. Obviously, they had attended an interview or a test for call centre executives for a bank.

It looks like they didn't make it.

Whether call centre executives should have good general knowledge is a different question!

The footballer who died was 25-year-old Brazilian striker Cristiano Junior. The tragic incident happened a few days ago, on Dec 5, during the final of the Federation Cup football championship in Bangalore.

The woman astronaut they were referring to was not an Indian citizen, but a US citizen of Indian origin. She was Kalpana Chawla. She was one among the seven onboard Space Shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated while re-entering earth's atmosphere in February last year.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

How honest people are

Nurses get top marks when it comes to honesty and ethics, and car salesmen are the least trusted people, according to Gallup's annual U.S. survey of professions released on Tuesday.

Nurses were given a "very high" or "high rating" by 79 percent of those surveyed nationwide in telephone interviews with 1,015 adults, aged 18 or older, conducted Nov. 19-21. Grade school teachers were next highest on the chart of 21 professions at 73 percent, one point higher than pharmacists and military officers. Car salesmen brought up the rear with only 9 percent rating their honesty and ethics as high. That was one point lower than for people in advertising.

Journalists did not fare much better in public approval. TV reporters (23 percent) and newspaper reporters (21) ranked below auto mechanics (26) and nursing home operators (24) on the list. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, Gallup said.

Reuters despatch from New York

Chicken gives up genetic secrets

Scientists have published a detailed analysis of the chicken genome, the biochemical "code" in the bird's cells that makes the animal what it is.
The data should help us understand better our own biology and may give us fresh insight on avian-borne diseases such as salmonella and bird flu. It could also lead to a step-change in the food industry with the development of more productive and healthier birds.

The International Chicken Sequencing Consortium reports its work in Nature.
"The chicken is the first bird as well as the first agricultural animal to have its genome sequenced and analysed," said Richard Wilson, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, US, and a lead researcher on the project.

Sharp focus

The primary subject for the study was the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus), the wild species from which domestic poultry was bred several thousand years ago.
For their research samples, scientists used one particular hen, now more than seven years old and living out its days on a Michigan research facility utterly unaware of its place in history.

The consortium's investigation shows the chicken to have approximately one billion base-pairs, or bonded "letters", of DNA. This compares with roughly three billion found in mammals, such as the human. The analysis reveals that just 2.5% of the human code can be matched to chicken DNA.

It is an important finding. This small portion contains genes that have been largely preserved over the 310 million years since humans and birds shared a common ancestor. "We believe that the bits of the genome that are most resilient to change are those that have been most crucial to our survival throughout evolutionary history," said Chris Ponting, from Oxford University, UK, who has been comparing the chicken and human data.

"This 2.5% corresponds to 70 million letters of DNA and among these is where we can look first for mutations linked to human disease. In effect, the chicken genome has helped us condense the human genome to something more manageable."

Future tools

The chicken has long had important roles in science. Developmental biologists have used it to study embryonic growth. Biomedical researchers have also made important advances in immunology and cancer research by studying chickens. The first tumour virus and cancer gene were identified in chicken research.
All of these areas will be advanced by knowledge of the bird's genome.

Of particular interest currently is the threat posed to human health by illnesses that can afflict both chickens and humans, such as bird flu. The new data may give science an insight into the genetics of resistance, something that would perhaps help researchers develop better vaccines or identify the poultry strains least likely to be susceptible to pathogens.

"What this research does give us is an incredible set of tools to study the genetic variation of these birds," said Ewan Birney, from the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, UK. "We know there's a lot of difference between different strains of chicken and different types of birds in the way they transmit these diseases, but we don't know which genes are really involved in helping prevent transmission of, say, the flu virus," he told BBC News.

"With the genome and the genetic tools that that gives us, we'll have a much better platform to do this sort of research in the future." Other researchers expect there to be big pay-offs for agriculture, too, with the possibility of identifying the underlying biochemical drivers of traits such as bigger eggs and tastier, leaner meat. On a pure research level, though, there are some real gems in the chicken genome.

These include the realisation that the birds have a keen sense of smell. Scientists can also see genes related specifically to feathers, claws and scales - code sequences that are absent in humans.

(From BBC)

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Brazilian striker dies on the field

Brazilian striker Cristiano Junior collapsed during the final of the Federation Cup football championship in Bangalore today some two hours back. HOSMAT hospital said he was brought dead to the hospital. It's not known if he died on the field or on the way. Postmortem report awaited.

Junior had scored a brace to help Dempo Sports Club, Goa, defeat Mohun Bagan in the finals 2-0. He scored the goal in the 78th minute. He collided with Mohan Bagan goalkeeper and collapsed on the ground. All efforts to revive him were futile.

Friday, December 3, 2004

'Blog' Tops Dictionary's Words of the Year

The word "blog" is the most-requested definition by users of Merriam-Webster's online dictionary.

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, defines a blog as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer."

Eight entries on the publisher's top-10 list related to major news events, from the presidential election -- represented by words such as incumbent and partisan -- to natural phenomena such as hurricane and cicada.

Springfield, Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster compiles the list each year by taking the most researched words on its websites and then excluding perennials such as affect/effect and profanity.

The company said most online dictionary queries were for uncommon terms, but people also turned to its Web sites for words in news headlines.

Americans called up blogs in droves for information and laughs ahead of the Nov. 2 presidential election. Freed from the constraints that govern traditional print and broadcast news organizations, blogs spread gossip while also serving as an outlet for people increasingly disenchanted with mainstream media.

It was mainly on blogs that readers first encountered speculation that President Bush wore a listening device during his first debate against Democrat John Kerry. The White House, forced to respond, called it a laughable, left-wing conspiracy theory.

Bloggers also were among the first to cast doubt on a CBS television news report that challenged Bush's military service. CBS later admitted it had been duped into using questionable documents for the report. Last week CBS anchor Dan Rather said he would step down in March, although the network said the move was unconnected to the scandal.


"While most of our online dictionary lookups are for slightly difficult but still generic non-specialized vocabulary, it does sometimes happen that words in the headlines so grab people's attention that they become a most frequently looked-up word," John M. Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster, says in a statement.

"That is what occurred in this year's election cycle, with voluminous hits for words like 'incumbent,' 'electoral,' 'partisan,' and, of course, our number one word of the year, 'blog.'" Initially, people were requesting a definition for blog, and the word was not even officially in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the company admitted.

"Most of the words in the top 10 list that people look up are in our dictionary," Arthur Bicknell, senior publicist at Merriam-Webster, told NewsFactor. "But 'blog' was not in the dictionary, as it was scheduled to be included in the 2005 annual updates of Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary due out early next year. So our lexicographers placed a definition of 'blog' on our Web site."

A Merriam-Webster spokesman said it was not possible to say how many times blog had been looked up on its Web sites but that from July onward, the word received tens of thousands of hits per month.

The complete list of words of the year is available at

(Compiled from Reuters and despatches)

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Who is at fault: People or the system?

When someone doesn't obey traffic rules, who is at fault? The perpetrator or the indifferent policeman or both?

Well, the other day, I got into this debate with an elderly gentleman. He felt it's the citizen's duty to obey rules. He quickly brought in Singapore, Europe and the US. And said, "Look at them, how well behaved they are."

Then I told him, "Look Sir, there the laws are not only very strict, they are also strictly imposed. Policemen don't look the other way, when you overspeed or cut the lane or jump the light. Here not only citizens are indisciplined, the police too are inefficient."

This gentleman is one who always believes that "We have to be always right, even if others are wrong." So, my argument that the system was also at fault didn't cut much ice with him.

For good measure I threw in my observation of how foreigners cross the road at Cauvery junction (between MG Road and Brigade Road) even when the pedestrian light is red. I am yet to find even one among the many foreigners on MG Road who deliberately waits for the pedestrian light to turn green evenwhile the natives cross the road regardless. Thus I am yet to be convinced about this argument that the Westerners are by nature law-abiding citizens.

They are, yes, law abiding, in their countries. Because, they have to be. We too are law abiding in other countries. Because, we have to be. We are not in our own country, because we don't have to be.

My gentleman friend was too gentlemanly to carry on the argument.

But this is my point: If someone out there is waiting for all citizens to turn spiritually enlightened to be on the righteous path on their own, please wake up.

Enforce discipline strictly. There will be some uneasiness, murmurs and protests. Within a week a good majority will fall in line. Within a month almost all will fall in line. Within a year, we will also be law abiding citizens. Like foreigners.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Bangalore as Union Territory

I am told there is a proposal doing the rounds to make Bangalore a Union Territory or even carve out a New Bangalore. I am also told that the objective is to enable the administration to focus better on amenities and infrastructure and thereby make people's lives better. It's just a talk in the corridors of power and nothing concrete.

Here is a news item carried by the online edition of Star of Mysore of Nov 30.
Star of Mysore, Mysore.
Mysore, Nov. 30 (PH&BRS)- Pressures may be brought in the coming days to make Bangalore a Union Territory on the grounds that there are more non-Kannada speaking people in that city than Kannadigas, observed noted columnist Prof. H.S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar (HSK).

He was speaking after inaugurating Kannada Rajyotsava celebrations in Jaganmohan Palace Auditorium here yesterday under the auspices of Canara Bank Kannada Sangha.

Kanandigas in Bangalore accounted for only 32 per cent, while others were 68 per cent. It was not surprising if the majority of the population who had gravitated to Bangalore and speaking languages other than Kannada made a demand for declaring Bangalore as a Union Territory, Prof. HSK remarked.

It was right to say that outsiders must not be allowed to make Bangalore their home. But, they must learn Kannada, he felt.

Dr. Aravinda Malagatti, Director, Kuvempu Instiute of Kannada Studies, also spoke. Dr. S.T. Ramachandra, Senior Manager of Canara Bank's Regional Office presided. Mr. M.S. Satish, General Secretary of the Sangha and Mimicry Dayanand were on the dais.

Mr. C. Basavaraju, Treasurer of the Sangha, welcomed. Dayanand presented a hilarious entertainment programme.


Think it over..!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The blaring horns

One thing that irritates me as I drive, are the horns of vehicles. For some drivers I think it is just a habit to blow them. I know one guy, who blares it even at 2 am at junctions. For others it could be even some form of sadism.

I am told that it is essential to develop the habit to ensure our safety. It seems we must blow the horn even if it is not essential just to warn other drivers and passers-by about our vehicle. Once when I almost hit a pedestrian, he turned around and shouted: "Doesn't your car have a horn?" I have also realised that on narrower roads it is all the more important to honk.

At traffic light junctions, the honks play an important role of waking up drivers who are dreaming and haven't realised that the light has turned green. I could never make out this simple message, and I used to curse the drivers. I still can't stand the blare, but I at least understand their objective.

In Singapore, and perhaps in many other countries as well, you don't hear the honks. There, blowing the horn means rebuke, I am told.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Disturbing stories of pontiff

I got too busy with work. Thus the delay in posting. In the meanwhile, the stories surrounding the Kanchi Mutt in general, and Sri Jayendra Saraswati and the juniour pontiff in particular, are really shocking. I am quite wary about post anything I got to hear from various sources in Tamil Nadu, since much of it is quite scandalous. And more importantly, there'sn't any way of knowing if they are true. The three major news magazines -- India Today, Outlook and The Week -- have featured the case on the covers. I have just bought them. And, it looks like there is much to read there.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Now a Kabaddi World Cup

Mumbai, Nov 19 (IANS): It may not be in the same league as the grand tourneys of soccer or cricket, but the Kabaddi World Cup which begins here Friday with 12 international teams participating has aroused much curiosity. The World Cup at the Birla Kreeda Grounds in downtown Mumbai will see teams from 12 countries, including Britain, the West Indies, Canada and Japan in addition to old favourites like India and Nepal. Pakistan is not participating, depriving the tournament of much of its excitement.

The teams from the West are essentially made up of non-resident Indians, according to tournament sources. Organised by the South Kanara Sports Club (SKSC) to mark its 50th anniversary, the winning team is set to bag Rs.200,000 - not much if you consider prize money for other global sporting contests, but with airfare and accommodation thrown in courtesy sponsors it is not a bad deal for the visitors. About Rs 5 million ($110,755) was spent on the airfare of the participants, organisers said.According to Jaya Shetty, general secretary of the SKSC, the first of the matches begin with India taking on Thailand.

Though the sport does not go beyond the Asian Games, Shetty hopes that it will make it to the Olympics sometime in the future."We have produced many national and international players and received recognition from the state and central government," said Shetty. He told reporters that the organisers will meet up with officials from the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India -- the apex body of the sport -- to discuss the formation of a world body. Representatives from France, the US, Kazakhstan and Lithuania would participate in the meeting.

Kabaddi is known by various names in different countries. The Iranians call it jhoo while South Koreans call it cattlefish. The teams have been divided into three groups with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout phase.Group A: India, Thailand, the West Indies and Canada.Group B: Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Group C: Iran, Bangladesh, Germany, and Nepal.

(Indo-Asian News Service)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Croatian diplomat fired over blog comments

The Croatian government has recalled an official from its Washington embassy after he apparently wrote on his blog that the diplomatic meetings were boring and that there was no difference between President Bush and the Democratic candidate John Kerry, according to a report from Reuters.

Third secretary at the Croatian embassy in Washington DC, Vibor Kalogjera, 25, had been narrating his experiences under the pseudonym "Vibbi". He is said to have violated state laws on foreign affairs and civil servants.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Did Jaya see my blog?!

It seems Jayalalithaa saw my posting on this blog! Within a few hours of my previous posting, she maid her first statement in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on the Kanchi pontiff's arrest. She said the government had "shocking" and "solid" evidence of the highly revered religious leader's role in the murder of a temple staffer.

Arrest of religious leader

One of the religious leaders of Hinduism, who has a huge following, has been arrested on suspicions of aiding the murder of another temple functionary. Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati's arrest (on November 11 night) has shocked the legion of devotees in India and abroad.

A friend of mine in Australia emailed this to me: "It is so shocking and very sad... It is high time Indian politics is above all these... and... well no excuse for Swami anyhow.... If he is behind it (the murder) then law should take the course for the sake of the country."

My friend has written "Indian politics..." Excuse me, are we talking of politics or religion? I thought it was religion. But, a lot of people see the seer's arrest as a political game.

Two ways of looking at it:

1. The seer is innocent, but chief minister Jayalalithaa has put her behind bars because of political vendetta.

2. The seer is guilty, but Jayalalithaa has put her behind bars because of political vendetta.
Either way, it's unfortunate. I mean, the reason for the action.

A few things stand out:

1. This particular pontiff (unlike his predecessor) has been controversial.

2. Even pontiffs are human beings living in this very same world. Let's not mistake them to be Gods.

3. The most highly placed seers should live up to the godly image devotees have of them. It's tough, but don't we all like it that way? The less temporal they get, the greater the respect they earn. That makes them different from ordinary mortals.

4. The more we cut politics and religion from each other, the better for both. Let religious figures not court politicians for publicity, and let politicians not use religious leaders for gaining votes. India can do without these. Did you notice unlike other politicians Jayalalithaa hasn't said a word.


-- Jayalalithaa got Veerappan killed.
-- She has now got the Kanchi seer arrested.
-- Next ....

Monday, November 15, 2004

Syracuse University recruiting students in Bangalore tomorrow

Syracuse University is offering students of Bangalore a unique chance to get their application forms processed, attend interviews and receive an immediate offers of admission to its Engineering and Computer Science programme, right here in the city.

Syracuse University is a private medium sized University founded in 1870.It is a comprehensive research university that has thirteen-degree granting schools and colleges. It is located in the central area of New York State. The school of engineering and computer science offers graduate programs in Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Civil Engineering Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Prasanta Ghosh, Faculty from the department of Electrical engineering and Computer Science will be at Yashna Trust (Satellite centre of US Educational Foundation in India and an affiliate of State Department) on Tuesday from 2.00 p.m.- 5.00 p.m.

Dr. Ghosh will come prepared to describe opportunities for graduate study in engineering and computer science at Syracuse University. He will also be prepared to evaluate application materials (including application forms, mark sheets, and GRE score reports) of any interested students and will be empowered to make admission decisions on the spot following an interview should students provide appropriate documentation.

This affords a rare opportunity for students to have a personal interview and receive an immediate offer of admission from a U.S educational institution of international repute.

Interested students are strongly encouraged to visit the website at and learn more about program offerings before scheduling an appointment with Dr Ghosh.

For more information students may call Yashna Trust at 51251922 or 51251913 or 51251940.
Yashna Trust, 102, The Park View, 40, Haines Road, Frazer Town, Bangalore 560 005.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Life after Arafat

It's a few days since Yasser Arafat died. Will now Middle East be different? I doubt. Because for Israel, Arafat was more of an excuse than a real hurdle. It cuts the other way too. For Palestinians, Sharon was more of an excuse. To Sharon's credit we must say this radical, dared to announce pullout from West Bank and Gaza. But Palestinians want the wall removed. When neither refuse to budge, how can there be a foward movement. There is this golden rule in diplomacy: be ready to take one step back, so you can take two steps forward.
Unless the extremists retreat and let the moderates take control, nothing will change. Extremism is like a tiger. Once you mount, you can't get off; and even if you manage dismount alive, no one will believe you. This is as much true of Middle East as Kashmir, Ireland or the Basque region.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Rising petrol price

The petrol price is up again. And, it's the costliest in Bangalore. Something like Rs 45 per litre. Everywhere else in India it's cheaper.Because, the Karnataka government has levied a slew of surcharges. One of them is for infrastructure. And, see what we have in the city? Where is all this money going? Shouldn't the government tell the people how much money is being collected via surcharge on every litre of petrol we buy?

The Left is protesting the hike. In Kerala yesterday, the right-wing BJP protested. Coming to think of it, there isn't much point protesting. For, the prices are now directly linked to international prices. But still the government is subsidising to some extent. Thanks for small mercies. There was a time when the government paid a good percentage of the cost of our petrol. No longer.

International fuel prices is one big mess. No one really knows what games are being played in the name of oil. There is this theory called "blood for oil", i.e. the American blood in Iraq is being spilt for the benefit of powerful oil companies. There is also the theory why US supports Saudi Arabia despite the latter flouting every principle that America stands for. Just for oil, they say. The oil cartel is one big power broker in the world stage.

It's one big mess because I don't find any sincere move by world's most powerful nations to develop and popularise non-conventional fuels. One is hydrogen fuel. Then, we can have clean fuel cells instead of dirty petrol engines. And, hydrogen can be made by anybody anywhere. I am sure enough research on these have been done world over. One reason why they haven't really caught on, I think, is because of the powerful oil cartel. Or else what could be reason? If governments have money to spend for space exploration, the benefits of which are only indirect, why can't they set apart a little for such things like fuel, which have a direct bearing on people's lives?

All said and done, just look at the vehicles plying on the roads, or the queues at the petrol bunks. You won't believe the price has gone up so much or that petrol is very costly now.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Pitcairn Island Chooses Female Mayor

Mon Nov 8, 7:50 AM ET

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Pitcairn Island has selected its first female mayor in its 214-year history after the former leader of the remote Pacific community was fired following his conviction on sex charges, British authorities said Monday.

The seven-member governing council on the isolated island, first settled by mutineers from the HMS Bounty, unanimously chose Brenda Christian, the sister of former Mayor Steve Christian, to fill the post until a Dec. 15 election, British High Commission spokesman Bryan Nicolson said.
Brenda Christian is the island's former police officer.

Late last month, six island men were convicted of rapes and sex attacks dating back as far as 40 years on the island, located midway between New Zealand and South America. Steve Christian, who claims to be a direct descendent of Bounty mutiny leader Fletcher Christian, was convicted of five rapes and sentenced to three years in prison.

Brenda Christian will preside over a 47-member community still coming to terms with the verdicts and the revelations of a reign of sex abuse by men on the island. The men's sentences, ranging from community service to six years in prison, will not begin until next year at the earliest, after appeals by their defense lawyers against Britain's jurisdiction over the island. If the sentences are upheld, the men will serve time in an island cell block they helped build.
British authorities last week fired Steve Christian as mayor and his son, Randy — who also was convicted of sex crimes — as chairman of a key island committee after the pair refused to resign.
Nicolson said Brenda Christian, born and raised on the island, had spent some years living in Britain and returned about five years ago.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Bush is back

Not quite surprisingly, Bush is back. For the first time in US history, a President who didn't have popular mandate in the first term has managed to get re-elected. For Americans who are threatened by terrorism, understandably, Bush is a safer option.
The question now is will he continue to be unilateral or let moderates in to some extent. Ronald Regan had mellowed down in the second term. What now we can expect is an allout attack on Fallujah, and a more vigorous cleanup of Iraq. Also look out for what's up in Iran. It is the third in line after Afghanistan and Iraq. But going by Iraq experience, will his approach to Iran be different?

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Ohio and provisional votes

What are provisional ballots?

It's a backup ballot offered to a voter whose name does not figure on rolls when he comes to vote. In other words, a provisional ballot is cast by a voter who has shifted his residence, or whose name is not on the voters' list or who was previously deemed ineligible to vote but on election day has become eligible.

In Ohio the provisonal votes have become crucial since Democrats say Bush's lead is far less than the number of provisional votes. Kerry supporters say there are more than 2,50,000 provisional votes whereas Bush's lead is only 1,25,000.

Though the option of provisional votes was made through a law passed by the Congress in 2002 (Help America Vote Act), it has not been made clear how these votes should be counted.

Rules for provisional ballots vary from state to state.

Ohio is among the states where the law is the strictest. It has a Republican government and according to rules framed by it, provisional ballots cast outside the voter's current precinct (sub-division of a town or city) is not valid. According to rules, provisional ballots are to be issued only to voters who, after giving their address, are in the correct precinct, but whose name is missing from the voters list.

A lower-court struck this directive down, but on October 23, a federal appeals court upheld the administration's rule. Democrats had decided not to appeal then.

According to Ohio laws, the state's provisional votes cannot be counted and added to the electoral vote count until 11 days after the election. The gap is for election officials to verify voters' eligibility.

Now in Ohio, many voters, who were issued provisional ballots and voted, may end up with their votes not counted, if on verification their addresses didn't match with the precinct they voted in.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

America is voting

America is voting. Just 4.5% of world population is deciding on who is the world's most powerful person.

I am asked why we are so excited. Why not? Whether you like it or not, America's influence runs across the world. Politicaly, socially, economically, culturally we are all affected (not necessarily in a bad way always.) However hard you try, it is very difficult to remain aloof. It's quite obvious to merit any elaboration.

In just about five hours, we will get the trends provided either Bush or Kerrry has taken a good lead. And, in 12 hours time we should know whether Bush has kept the job or lost it. And the race is close, or if the poll goes to court, then wait.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Osama tape

The Osama tape, that surfaced on Friday, had a blistering effect on the US polity ahead of the polls. Though no shot had been fired or no bomb had been dropped, the effect was to the contrary -- Bush and Kerry scambling in a oneupmanship show of determination to kill and destroy the enemy. It is a different matter that at the end of day, Bush and Kerry sparred over the way each reacted to the tape. Not surprising, since Osama is so much a part of the election theme.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Good old radio commentators

The third Test against Australia is on at Nagpur. As I am a radio enthusiast, I listen to radio commentary, apart from watching the match on TV occasionally.

The commentary has been a trip down the memory lane, in a way. The two English commentators are Suresh Saraiya and J.P. Narayanan. They have been there for more than almost 20 years. I have been listening to them since school days. They have their very distinct style of rendering the commentary.

Their voice takes me back to the school days, when we used to huddle around the radio. It is a different experience altogether. Unlike TV, radio offers the opportunity to visualise a lot. We used to rush during the 15-minute break during school hours to listen to the commentary and then rush back and announce the score to others.

Another person I miss commentating is Anand Setalvad. I don't know where he is. Age shows in JP sound. But not so in Suresh's. And, there was this Sushil Doshi, who used to commentate so fast, especially when describing a boundary. As if trying to race with the ball. But unfortunately, he moved over to TV, though he was more suited to radio, given his style.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Pitcairn verdict is out

Monday October 25, 08:58 PM

Six Pitcairn men found guilty

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Six of the seven Pitcairn Island men charged with raping and indecently assaulting girls as young as 12 have been found guilty by a British court on the remote South Pacific island, a British official says. The men, descendants of 18th century Bounty mutineers, had argued that under-age sex was a tradition dating back to 1790 when mutineers arrived on the island with their Tahitian women.

But their victims, now adults who testified via video from New Zealand, said they were treated as "sex things" as girls and raped at will under banyan trees or in garden sheds on Pitcairn. The men will be sentenced later this week but will not be sent to jail until 2005 at the earliest
due to legal wrangling over whether Britain has jurisdiction over the island.

"Six of the seven have been found guilty," said British High Commission spokesman Bryan Nicolson in Wellington, New Zealand. "Steve Christian, the mayor, has been found guilty of five rapes and a number of sexual assaults," Nicolson told Reuters on Monday.

Christian, 53, is a descendant of Fletcher Christian, who led the Bounty mutiny in 1789. Christian was the "leader of the pack" on the island and believed he had a right to have sex with young girls, the prosecution told the court during the trial. His 30-year-old son Randy Christian was found guilty of four rapes and five indecent assaults, said TV New Zealand in a report from Pitcairn.
Len Brown, 78, was found guilty of two rapes and his son Dave Brown was convicted of nine indecent assaults, it said. Dennis Christian, Steve Christian's cousin, was found guilty of one indecent assault charge and two sexual assaults and Terry Young was convicted of one rape and six indecent assaults. Jay Warren, Pitcairn's former magistrate, was found not guilty of indecent assault.

Pitcairn is the last British territory in the South Pacific, a dot in the ocean 2,160 km (1,300 miles) southeast of Tahiti. Pitcairn, with an area of just 5 sq km (2 sq miles), has no safe harbour, is too rocky for an airstrip, has no paved roads, no sewage treatment system and no landline telephones. Visitors must fly to an outlying Tahitian island and then travel by boat for 36 hours to get there, ending their journey in a longboat, riding the surf that crashes on to the island.

Islanders fear that the Pitcairn community, with a population of only 47, will not survive if the seven are jailed. Many of the men operate the island's only boats, which are lifelines to the outside world, ferrying in essential supplies. Britain built a makeshift court inside Pitcairn's community hall and shipped in judges, lawyers and police for the trial. The charges against the men, which date back more than 40 years, followed a report by a British policewoman stationed on the island in 1999.

The Pitcairn men are challenging Britain's right to prosecute them, arguing that British sovereignty ended when the mutineers sank the Bounty off the island in 1790. The men have been granted the right to challenge British sovereignty. They will present their case to the Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for Britain's overseas territories. The case is set down for 2005 and, if the appeal is upheld, the verdicts would be overturned. A second legal challenge will see the men's lawyers argue that, if Britain does have jurisdiction, then it never promulgated the under-age sex law. Defence lawyers say Pitcairn men did not know that rape and child molestation were illegal. That hearing will take place in a New Zealand court in February 2005.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Meaning of Veerappan's death

Veerappan is dead, finally -- shot and killed around 11 pm yesterday. It's a huge relief that this society is free of a dreaded criminal, who masterminded murder in the most cold-blooded manner and looted treasure. Tamil Nadu's STF chief Vijayakumar deserves all accolades for spearheading the undercover operation with the most clinical precision and by putting their own lives at risk.

But a regretful thought overwhelms the mind. Couldn't this have been achieved long, long, long back. Yes, we could have, if Veerappan didn't have the patronage of some politicians.

So what does Veerappan's exit mean? Has our corrupt system also vanished with Veerappan? If so, then there's really sometheing to cheer about. But if only Veerappan has gone, and the corrupt system that supported him still exists, then there'sn't much scope for celebration. For, what is the guarantee that there won't be another Veerappan, even more dreaded?

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Funny coincidences & paranormal phenomena

n I met a colleague when I walked into my office for work in the morning. I met him at the same spot in the evening when I was leaving for home.

n I crossed a fruit vendor at a particular spot when I was going to the market. I crossed another fruit vendor at the same spot on my way back.

n I met the neighbourhood shopkeeper in the morning when I was leaving home. In the afternoon, when I came back I met the same man at the same spot.

During the past 20-odd years, I have had more than 10 such experiences, some of them very striking, Nothing very haunting about them. Because each of those twin-encounters has been very pleasant and quite ordinary. Nevertheless, what I found unique was: same person, same spot, during my onward journey and return journey. It looked so programmed.

Of course it hasn't been too frequent. When you consider the number of occurrences and the period of time, they easily fall into the category of coincidences. And mercifully, the same set of incidents hasn't repeated itself over and over again. Imagine, meeting the same person, at the same spot during your onward and return journeys, when there is no particular reason for it to happen. When something happens all too frequently it's no longer a coincidence, but bizarre, and may be even haunting.

Another inexplicable thing that has happened to me is: I think about someone who has been out of touch, and after some time the phone rings; and as if he has heard me think, that person is on the line! Or, I get an email from that person. Sometimes the time gap has been as little as a few minutes, sometimes a few hours. This hasn't happened too frequently to brand myself as someone with telepathic abilities.

Don't think all people who call me up are the ones I had just then been thinking about. Or, don't think I am thinking about you when you are thinking of calling me. There have been plenty surprises too. Surprises are perhaps one of the most pleasant things in life. There can be a pattern to surprises too, is it not? Something like a season for things to happen, like a season of surprises.

Last week, it so happened I have been renewing old contacts. Nothing remarkable about it if I had been initiating them. But, here others also have been calling me up and saying, "Hey it's been long time.. how have you been... " Or, situations have developed when I had to renew an old contact. The point is: it's not by my design, but purely accidental, coincidental.

I called my friend in Goa the other day and he said, I was the 7th or 8th person who was making an STD call to him that day. "How come a lot my friends decided to call me today?" he was wondering aloud.

I don't know if you have noticed this: on some days there's much traffic on the roads. I am not referring to holidays, but normal working days. And, the other way round too: for no particular reason, there is so much of traffic on some days.

I am sure many people must be experiencing such phenomena. Mostly we are so caught up with our daily lives, we hardly notice such Para occurrences, like precognition and telepathy (a term coined by English essayist W.H. Myers). I have also heard of telekinesis: movement of objects from one position to another using mental concentration. I haven't yet seen someone do it.

Those of us who have had such experiences, are often puzzled. Those who haven't will mostly be sceptical, but they shouldn't be dismissive. For, there are phenomena which still can't be explained or proved using conventional scientific methods. Parapsychology is being researched by scientists, I suppose. And, one day we may have the answers, for what till then would be bizarre coincidences.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Media and responsibility

There was this seminar on "Media and responsibility" at Christ College on Friday. Tehelka editor Shankarshan Thakur, Express editor R Shankar and India Today correspondent Stephen David participated in the section on Print media.
Thakur spoke of how difficult it is for Tehelka weekly to survive, while Shankar stressed on the need for accuracy in reports. Stephen said media responsibility was a two-way process, meaning, people have to react when media isn't fulfilling its role.
I think Indian media has always been responsible, but for maybe a few cases of individual indiscretions. It has contributed a lot to the polity and social infrastructure. Though media has been doing its role, not always there is someone to carry whatever is published forward. Media is only conduit of information and a mirror to the society. It is neither a prosecutor nor judicial power. Media has been a watchdog and an agenda setter. But, why the same old problems remain and the media have to keep carrying them again and again? We have written so much about the bad civic sense we are notorious for. Neither the citizen has learnt anything nor the administration has had the willingness to enforce civic discipline. Why?
Eventhough Bangalore media has been crying hoarse about the potholes in the city, nothing much is being done. Mayor P R Ramesh is shameless. He is so peeved with the media that he refuses to talk to them. That is all. When I put pictures of potholes in my paper, I have been doing it with the apprehension of whether the reader will get sick of it. There is this risk of "getting used to it" phenomenon.
Aren't we already sick of the negative stories the media carry? Haven't we become cynical and complacent? Of course, that can't stop us from blacking those stories out. This indifference must be one reason why feel-good information and trivia sell much more rather than well-researched investigative pieces, like what Tehelka publishes.

India lose Bangalore Test

India lost the Bangalore Test by 217 runs on Sunday. Local lad, Rahul flopped and so too most batsmen.
Prior to the Test Gavaskar was brought in as an advisor. Did our batsmen get confused as to follow their coach John Wright or Gavaskar?
Let's now wait for the next Test.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Pitcairn - accused help build jail

This is a really interesting story

Child-sex accused helped build jail

By Claire Harvey, The Mercury, Tasmania

THERE are many strange things about the child sex trial on Pitcairn Island, but perhaps this is the most unusual – the seven defendants helped to build their own jail. Her Majesty's Pitcairn Island Prison, a six-bedroom kit home with barred windows and a high fence, was completed earlier this year.

The British Government, which rules Pitcairn as a dependent territory, pays the islanders $9.30 an hour for essential work such as road-mending, gardening and construction. When Governor Richard Fell decided to expand the old three-cell remand centre in preparation for this trial, he asked the Island Council if the islanders would be prepared to do the work.

"We said if you want to help build it, we'll pay for it, and if not, we perfectly understand," Mr Fell said.

"If they all said no, we would have had to have got other people in to do it. We did not force them to do it – any suggestion like that would be complete nonsense."

Next month, another odd scene will unfold. The islanders – including some defendants – will set sail from Bounty Bay in their longboat to bring ashore seven prison guards. The guards have been engaged by Britain from the New Zealand Corrections Department, in case some of the men are sentenced to jail.

They will arrive on the island like all other visitors – a 36-hour boat trip from the nearest landfall, Mangareva, and then a quick longboat trip in to Bounty Bay, the only harbour on Pitcairn.

The defendants, including Pitcairn mayor Steve Christian, face a total of 54 charges that include rape, indecent assault and gross indecency against girls as young as five. The most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment – perhaps an incentive for the workmen to do a good job.

The corrections officers are scheduled to work a four-month stint on the island before being replaced by another seven Kiwi guards, said Pitcairn deputy Governor Matthew Forbes.
"We had over 150 applicants for the positions, most of whom were looking for something different, a challenge," Mr Forbes said. "We got some really good applicants, correctional officers with skills from their previous jobs."

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

B-school and pothole

The myth is shattered. The elite can also get down to earth. On Oct 4, The students and faculty of Indian Institute of Management here came out on the street -- that is the infamous Bannerghatta Road, known more for potholes and craters -- demanding that something be done. They were joined by employees of nearby IT companies, some of them MNCs.

So far it was only the IT companies that made a noise about the city's lack of infrastructure. Infy's Narayana Murthy did it. Wipro's Azim Premji did it. In fact, last year when Premji thundered that he will take his new investments out of Bangalore, a worried administration rushed to him to calm him.

The repair and expansion of roads is also about public affairs management; and city's most well-known B-school has a live project to work on.

The Aussies are here

The city is abuzz with cricket. The first Test against Australia is on at the Chinnaswamy stadium. Cricket is to India as baseball and basketball are to America. The craze is such, even a bad-form player can get a product endorsed. Australia hasn't won a series in India for almost 35 years. Can the world champions break the jinx?

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Pitcairn sex trial - postmaster pleads guilty

The extraordinary trial at the small island of Pitcairn continues. And, the postmaster has pleaded guilty. The AP report is as follows.

Man pleads guilty in Pitcairn Island sex abuse trial
Associated Press

The postmaster of tiny Pitcairn Island pleaded guilty to the indecent assault of a 12-year-old girl, the first outcome in a series of trials at a makeshift court set up on this remote Pacific outpost to handle charges of sex abuse dating back decades.

The defendant, Dennis Christian, is one of seven men on trial in the isolated British territory, which is home to descendants of the 18th century Bounty mutineers in a community whose entire year-round population numbers only 47.

Christian, 49, pleaded guilty to three of four charges against him and was released on bail until sentencing at an unspecified date, the court ruled on Monday _ Tuesday in New Zealand, from where some of the alleged victims testified by video link. The court dismissed a fourth charge against Dennis Christian after prosecutors offered no evidence.

"We are pleased," prosecutor Christine Gordon told Television New Zealand. "It saves the two complainants from going through the trauma of having to give evidence in court."
Pitcairn, roughly halfway between New Zealand and Peru, has been reeling from unprecedented attention since the trials opened last week with more than half the island's adult males on trial, including the island's mayor Steve Christian.

Most of Pitcairn's female residents have come out in defense of their men, insisting that underage sex was part of the island's culture and that none of them had been forced into it.
But prosecutors painted a picture of the island's men treating women and girls like a harem.
"Hopefully it (Dennis Christian's guilty plea) is a sign of some acceptance by some on this island of events that have been taking place," said Rob Vinson, a British investigator, to Television New Zealand.

Dennis Christian, a relative of the mayor, admitted in court to indecently assaulting a 12-year-old girl in the early 1980s. The court suppressed details about the other two charges to which he pleaded guilty. Police and witness statements on Sunday accused Steve Christian, a direct descendant of mutineer Fletcher Christian, of sexually initiating all the girls on the island.
Steve Christian, 53, pleaded innocent to six charges of rape and four of indecent assault on four women in 1964-75.

A woman testified from the New Zealand city of Auckland that Christian raped her twice, once while on a motorbike ride and again in one of the island's boats. Defense attorneys suggested to the woman that she had consented to sex with Christian, which she denied.

The trials of three Pitcairn men are underway in two makeshift courtrooms in the island's community hall. Seven men face a total of 55 sex abuse charges going back as long as 40 years. The other four trials have not yet begun.

The trials, held under British law before New Zealand judges, are expected to take six weeks.
Some islanders claim that if the accused are convicted and imprisoned, they will no longer have enough men to crew longboats _ the only way to bring vital supplies to the island from passing ships.

There is no airstrip or port on the rocky, volcanic Pitcairn Islands, which have a total land area of 47 square kilometers (18 square miles). Only one is inhabited.

Radio New Zealand correspondent Sue Ingram on Pitcairn Island contributed to this report for The Associated Press.

Pothole drama in Bangalore

There is a hilarious drama playing out on India's Silicon Capital. And paradoxically it is in the city's potholes. Obviously, the ride on our bikes is in no way hilarious, but the way our civic officials are trying to come to grips with these roads, very much is.
Eversince enlightened voters of Karnataka voted out the progressive Krishna government in May, there has been no government worth the name. And what we see on the roads is nothing but a reflection of this maladministraion.
Potholes are, in fact, nothing new on Indian roads. Anyway nothing lasts for long these days; and, why should roads be an exception. By the same logic, neither should potholes last this long. They never did. The frequent wear and tear of roads used be to as frequently repaired. But no longer. Result: the horror of driving. That's not hilarious. Residents are getting restive. Resentment is getting vocal and quite demonstrative.  
But someone is having good fun. That's the government officials. As newspapers began carrying photos and reports of potholes, the government (just to make it appear it is working) issued a deadline to get these roads repaired. The vigilant media made a reality check and found nothing had changed. Another barrage of reports and photos. Another deadline. Another joke.
Media stepped up attack. Another deadline. Again, the media did a reality check. Finally, something seemed to have been done. Even if not complete asphalting, some patches had been levelled and made motorable. With a sense of accomplishment, the mayor made a declaration that all potholes had been levelled. But the media said he was wrong.
Then came the most dramatic declaration by the mayor. For each photo of pothole published in newspapers the area engineer will be fined Rs 1,000. The media sprang back with renewed vigour. The civic reporters of my newspaper actually went to the spot and counted the potholes. We published as many photos as possible. Other newspapers too did. We lost count of potholes. With as many as we counted, we calculated how much all these potholes are worth. There was some confusion, though. Since some photos showed more than one pothole, it wasn't clear whether the mayor will take it as Rs 1,000 per photo or per pothole.
An exasperated mayor said he will review the situation on October 3. And, he did. Officials went with newspaper cuttings trying to identify the potholes. And he identified them. But, found just seven in the whole of Bangalore! And engineers were levied a token fine Rs 1,000.
But, how come just seven? The mayor makes a distinction -- between potholes which had been neglected by the engineers (who had been on a round of repairs) and fresh potholes created by heavy rain. How he could make that out is a mystery.
But what takes the cake is mayor's statement: "We can't cover the entire city with umbrellas!"
Bangalore's pothole diary will continue....

Saturday, October 2, 2004

A Kerry quote I liked

During the first TV debate in Miami, President Bush and Senator Kerry sparred over their approach to terrorism. While Kerry felt Bush had rushed to war, when there wasn't any reason for it, the President felt otherwise.

One grouse Bush had was that Kerry is inconsistent, and sending wrong message to solidiers and enemy. Bush is sure of what he is doing and thinks that's right. In this context at the fag end of the debate, here is what Kerry said:

"...this issue of certainty. It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong. It's another to be certain and be right, or to be certain and be moving in the right direction, or be certain about a principle and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put them to use in order to change and get your policy right. What I worry about with the president is that he's not acknowledging what's on the ground, he's not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he's not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem-cell research or of global warming and other issues. And certainty sometimes can get you in trouble."

I think it is a very profound thought. What Kerry said makes a lot of sense; not just in politics, but in day-to-day life of each one of us.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Bush-Kerry debate round 1

Got up early morning to see the Bush-Kerry debate. Since India is ten-and-a-half hours ahead, what was Thursday night in the US was Friday morning for me. Kerry put up a good show. He was doing the attacking and Bush was doing the defending.

I agree with Kerry, that Bush shouldn't have gone to war in such a hurry. If reports are to be believed, a decision to attack had been taken much before the issue came to UN. It came to UN only because of moderates in the administration and Tony Blair. And since Iraq is on the boil, Bush doesn't have much to show anything other than that Saddam is gone.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Sex trials against Pitcairn men begin

Thu Sep 30, 3:41 AM ET

By SUE INGRAM, For The Associated Press

PITCAIRN ISLAND - A series of sex abuse trials opened on Pitcairn Island, the isolated British territory in the Pacific that is home to descendants of the 18th-century Bounty mutineers. The first alleged victim said she was raped as a young girl by the island's mayor.

The unprecedented trials of seven men — more than half the island's adult male population — on 55 charges began on Wednesday in the island's community hall, which has been converted into courts staffed by judges and lawyers from New Zealand but operating under British law.

Some of the island's 47 permanent residents accuse Britain of using the case, involving abuse allegations dating back up to 40 years, to depopulate Pitcairn. British authorities have denied that and said they are pumping millions of dollars into the island to improve life there.

There are only 12 adult men among the population and those who are young and fit enough must crew a longboat to get essential supplies from passing freight and cruise ships. The island has no port, airstrip or paved roads.

Convictions for the seven men, who are to be tried separately in two court rooms, could make it virtually impossible to man the boat, islanders claim.
Prosecutors called their highest profile defendant first — island mayor Steve Christian. He faces six charges of rape and four of indecent assault on four women from 1964-75.
Christian, 53, pleaded innocent to the charges.

Public prosecutor Simon Moore alleged that Christian committed the offenses when he was between 13 and 24 years old. In testimony given via a video link between the island and northern New Zealand city of Auckland, more than 3,100 miles away, the first prosecution witness described how as a young girl of 11 or 12 years she was taunted on the island for being a "half-caste" and that she had been targeted and raped by Christian on 4 occasions.

The cases appear certain to draw new attention to the sexual habits of the tiny community that ekes out an existence on the rocky volcanic island midway between New Zealand and Peru.

Dea Birkett, a British journalist whose 1997 book "Serpent in Paradise" described her several months' living on the island, has written: "Starved of real choices, Pitcairners develop relationships considered unacceptable elsewhere. Sisters share a husband. Teenage girls have affairs with older men. Women have children by more than one partner, often starting as young as 15."

Later Wednesday the cases of two other men were expected to open — Len Brown, the oldest defendant at 78, and his son, Dave. Len Brown faces two charges of raping one woman, and his son faces 15 charges relating to five women. These charges date to 1969.

The cases are expected to last six weeks and the defendants could be sentenced to lengthy prison terms if convicted. Investigations into the sex attacks were launched in 1999 when an islander told a visiting British policewoman she had been sexually abused.

On Tuesday, a group of women residents on the island came to the defense of the seven accused men, claiming the cases had been blown out of proportion and that the victims may have been coerced into testifying. Speaking to reporters on the island, some of the women said underage sex was normal in the community.

Island resident Carol Warren told New Zealand television on Wednesday that as far as she knew, "There's never been a rape on the island." She added that she had sex at age 12, but added, "I went in fully knowing what I was doing and I wasn't forced."

At earlier hearings, suspects' lawyers argued the inhabitants of Pitcairn long ago severed their ties with Britain by burning the boat that carried them to their isolated island after the Bounty mutiny. That argument was rejected.
In January 1790, five months after setting Capt. William Bligh and 18 of his crew adrift in an open boat, the Bounty mutineers landed on Pitcairn Island.

Their leader, Fletcher Christian, exploited some sloppy map making to set up a hide-out on an island they knew was located in the wrong place on British admiralty charts.

More than 20 years earlier, British sailors had spotted the island but incorrectly charted it 188 nautical miles West of its true location, according to a history of the island published on the Web site of the Pitcairn Islands Study Center.
The mutineers choice of Pitcairn was an inspired one that led to the establishment of one of the world's most isolated communities. On Jan. 23, 1790, the Bounty caught fire and sank, stranding the mutineers.

Sue Ingram is a Radio New Zealand correspondent who is also covering the Pitcairn trials for The Associated Press.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pitcairn sex trial -- Women back their men

This is one extraordinary trial, in an extraordinary island, where some extraordinary group of 47 people live. This is an amazing story. Read the report.

Pitcairn Women Back Their Men Ahead of Sex Trial

Wed Sep 29, 8:14 AM ET

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A group of women on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific are standing by their men, who face underage sex charges, saying having sex at age 12 is a tradition dating back to 18th century mutineers who settled on the island.
A handful of Pitcairn women have told reporters on the eve of a trial that sex with young pubescent girls is always consensual and that the sex charges against their men is an attempt by Britain to close their island, home to a few dozen people.

Seven men, half of Pitcairn's male population and descendants of 18th century mutineers who rebelled against Captain William Bligh aboard the Bounty, face a total of 96 sex charges, some dating back more than 40 years.

"I was 13 ... I felt like a big lady. I wanted it," Darralyn Griffiths, 26, told reporters on Tuesday on Pitcairn, which lies east of the international dateline and is the last British territory in the Pacific. She was quoted in The Australian newspaper on Wednesday.

But one Pitcairn mother, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being ostracized, disagreed.

"The implication all girls are sexually active at 10 or 12 .. that's nonsense!" she told Television New Zealand in a report from Pitcairn, a rocky island of 5 square km (2 square miles) lying about halfway between New Zealand and Panama.

The seven men, including the mayor, are charged with having sex with underage girls. British law forbids having sex with a girl under 16. A group of eight former Pitcairn women, now living in New Zealand, will give evidence via video for the prosecution.

However, some of the island women who first gave evidence against the men have since withdrawn the charges, saying they were misled by police. Charlene Griffiths, 22 and a mother of four, is one of two women on the island who have withdrawn her charges.

She said she was offered victim's compensation if she gave evidence. "I was offered some good money for each person that I could name," she said.

The trial on Pitcairn, with a population of just 47, is due to start on Wednesday, Sept. 29, Pitcairn time. The British government has shipped in judges, police, a jail, court officials and reporters for the trial, which is expected to last for about six weeks.

Judges, wearing the traditional black robes of the British judicial system, declined comment as they walked toward the community hall on the island where the trial will be held.

Pitcairn islanders say they have a tradition dating back to Fletcher Christian and his mutineers, who had numerous Tahitian wives, whereby they had consensual sex with island girls. "It was just the way it was. It goes way back. It's been happening for generations," said Nadine Christian, 32.

Some Pitcairn women believe if the seven men, who comprise half the island's adult male population, are jailed then this could force the closure of Pitcairn. "The men who have been charged, they are all viable men, the ones who run the longboats," said Nadine Christian.

"Who is going to do that if they go to jail?" Pitcairn's longboats are the islanders' lifeline since no larger boats can reach Pitcairn through the surf and rocks that surround it.

Besides its remoteness, Pitcairn was chosen as a hideout by the mutineers because it is a rocky outcrop without a safe landing for ships. Supply ships must anchor offshore and wait for the ocean swells to subside for longboats to be launched from a rocky cove to pick up essential goods.

The charges against the Pitcairn men follow a report by a British police woman stationed on the island.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Raja Ramanna's death

Work on the News Desk is often very hectic. Successive reports of rapidly developing events can pose a major challenge, as one has to quickly replace the outdated items with updated ones. Deadline is so sacrosanct that nothing matters after that.

What happens if a piece of very important news breaks out just around the deadline? Few instances in the recent past have created as much confusion as the death of the architect of India's nuclear programme, Raja Ramanna, last night.

At 9.50 pm, we received a phone call from a colleague. "I heard that Raja Ramanna is dead. His nephew will give the details," she said. One of the reporters was immediately put on the job. As the deadline is 10.15 pm for early editions, immediately some space was created for this breaking news on page one. Meanwhile, the reporter quickly typed out a few lines and we carried it.

Then, for the last edition, we carried detailed news of the passing away of the scientist, who hails from Karnataka. We also ran an obit.

Then, suddenly around 1 am -- when many thousands of copies had already been printed -- PTI (leading news agency, Press Trust of India) moved an advisory recalling earlier stories on Ramanna. It moved a fresh series on a press conference addressed well after midnight by Dr B.K. Goyal, director of Bombay Hospital. He said, Ramanna was alive, sustained by a ventilator. The newsroom was thrown into chaos.

There was further confusion. On hearing Ramanna's death, President Abdul Kalam who was in Aurangabad (Maharashtra state), rushed to Mumbai, "to pay respects to the departed soul". This copy too was revised, saying the President was rushing to wish Ramanna "a speedy recovery". By the way, Ramanna was a senior colleague of Kalam, who was a space scientist.

But, how could we carry a news item saying Ramanna had died, when possibly he was on way to full recovery? We had to quickly get into action and undo the damage. Fresh copies were flowed in. Earlier copies were abandoned. And fresh copies printed. None of the readers today morning must have got an inkling of the confusion and chaos in the newsroom.

But Ramanna wasn't lucky. He passed away early in the morning. In retrospect, even if the earlier news had been carried, it wouldn't have been so much of an error. But if he had survived...

Today we were left wondering how it all happened. His personal assistant Ramakrishna in Bangalore had said Ramanna had died. His daughter-in-law too had spoken of his death. How could they be wrong?

One speculation is that a decision to put him on ventilator must not have been communicated properly. He might have been already clinically dead. Or, did the President's visit got to do something with it? Did someone think Kalam's visit would create protocol problems, and decided to delay the announcement? It remains a mystery.

Anyway, this incident brings to mind some earlier instances. The most quoted is Mark Twain's obituary in 1897, which he himself got to read. There are many versions of how he reacted. One of them is, "Reports of my illness grew out of his (my cousin's) illness, the report of my death was an exaggeration."

In the 1970s, AIR broadcast the news of freedom fighter and socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan's death in its 2 pm bulletin. But later corrected after doctors managed to revive his heart. JP managed to live for many more days if I remember correctly.