Thursday, June 30, 2005

The best parents

Let me continue with the topic of parents and children. Ysterday, I posted a clipping of a news item on how in Italy, parents were bribing kids to stay with them. Today, I saw an item in The Philippine Star, which quotes a Reader's Digest survey of Asian teenagers. The finding is that Filipino parents are the coolest and hippest in Asia. I didn't find any mention of Indians.

Here are some interesting points:

* Sex, although still a taboo subject at the dinner table, is no longer that hard to discuss for Filipino parents since they are always willing to have "the talk" on sex education with their children.

* The thought of having ‘the talk’ still makes Filipino parents squirm. But they did much better than other Asian parents, coming second only to their Thai counterparts.

* Pinoy moms and dads were rated better for warning their kids about the dangers of illegal drugs, though Thai parents proved to be the most open on the subject and South Koreans shunned the topic altogether.

* Filipino moms and dads were rated A (excellent) and C (average) respectively, getting their best marks for being hard workers, showing affection, and having values which teens admire and respect.

* A majority of the Filipino teens added that their moms and dads were people that they actually liked and definitely loved.

* Moms are the ones kids and teens turn to for emotional support while they turn to their dads when they want to have a good laugh.

* Filipino dads got a 76 percent (highest) rating for humor.

* For all their criticisms, demands and contradictions, three-quarters of Asian teens gave their parents high marks for doing a good job, but they still had many issues.

* Reader’s Digest said, "The teenage years can be a scary and challenging time for both kids and their parents and the key to a better relationship between them is open communication."

Read the full story

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Italians 'bribe' sons...

Italians 'bribe' sons to stay home into their 30s

Wed Jun 29, 9:10 AM ET

ROME (Reuters) - More than 80 percent of Italian men aged between 18 and 30 still live with their parents and a new study says it is because they are "bribed" by mom and dad.

The study found high rent and unemployment might also be among the reasons for so many mamma's boys. However, mostly they stay at home because they are spoiled by doting parents.

"Parents will be willing to trade off some of their consumption to 'bribe' those children who remain at home by offering them higher consumption in exchange for their presence at home," economists who conducted the study said.

The researchers at the University of London and University of California, Berkeley, found that a 10-percent increase in parental income resulted in a 10-percent rise in the proportion of sons living with their parents.

That means if the parents get a pay rise, the grown-up children get to spend the cash, giving them an incentive to stay at home.

The study found that 82 percent of 18- to 30-year-old men in Italy still lived with their parents, compared with 43 percent in the United States. The proportion in France, Britain and Germany was between 45 and 53 percent.

The study, entitled "Why do most young Italian men live with their parents?," was published by the London-based Center for Economic Policy Research.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Emergency, 30 years ago

Most of India has almost forgotten about the Emergency, except perhaps those who were unfortunate to suffer the bad effects of it. I have two sets of memories regarding Emergency. I was 10 years old then. My father was listening to the 8.10 am English news on All India Radio (now it is at 8.15). With shock he told me the country was under Emergency. I understood nothing of what he explained. In a few months I began to get some idea of what it was all about.
We were living in the campus of Sainik School near Trivandrum (now called Thiruvananthapuram) the capital of Kerala state. So, we were quite cut off from the humdrum of the real world outside. But one thing I remember is that the transport bus that plied near our house was punctual like never before. There wasn't one day it was cancelled. There were no strikes, government machinery functioned so smoothly.

Much of north India suffered mainly because of Indira Gandhi's wayward younger son Sanjay. The one incident that rattled Kerala was what became known as the Rajan case. He was an engineering college student who went missing. He was -- it is still widely believed -- picked up by the police for his political activities and beaten up. He finally died. His body was never found.

Karunakaran, the home minister in the Achuta Menon's CPI-led ministry, was wildly held responsible. After Emergency was lifted, stories of police atrocities began to be serialised in newspapers and magazines. They read like thrillers. Unique torture techniques employed by police became the talk of the town.
No harm ever came to any of the accused, at least as far as I know. Everyone escaped. Police officers like Jayaram Padikkal got promotions. Karunakaran has prospered so much --- his greed has still not seen its end --- that the next many, many generations will never ever have to worry about anything in their lives!!!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Newspaper cuttings

Spring-cleaning not only gets the junk out of our house but also provides us an opportunity to travel back in time. Today I spent a couple of hours doing just that.

Among the things that I treasure are clippings from newspapers and magazines. I have a whole lot of them. Reading newspapers and listening to radio was once a past time, an obsessive one. But now, being in the mass communication profession, it has become a part of my job.

The habit of cutting out articles and news items sprang out of my interest in news/current affairs, and thereby in newspapers and radio. I also have cassettes in which I have recorded BBC newsreports of memorable events. I still keep cutting articles; I am struggling to put them in some order.

A few newspapers I that went through with nostalgia were the ones of Oct 31, 1984 and of a few days after that. That was the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated. She was the prime minister when I was in school and college. My first memories of her are of the Emergency. Incidentally, tomorrow, it will be 30 years since that day. More about that tomorrow...

The Oct 31, 1984 paper that is with me is already near-yellow, bleached. I have carefully wrapped it in a plastic bag and tucked away deep inside the cupboard so that light won't fall on it bleaching it further.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bangalore thru Mumbai eyes

We crib, curse, swear... and what not, about the pathetic state of Bangalore roads. And, look at what Mumbai's mayor, who was on a visit to Bangalore, went back and told a press conference in Mumbai yesterday.

Full story on here


** On a day-long trip to Bangalore, Mayor Datta Dalvi kept his eyes peeled, scanning the tree-lined roads everywhere he went. ''No plastic garbage,'' he said on Wednesday, speaking at a press conference at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation headquarters.

** The Bangalore municipality, he explained, had shredded several thousand tonnes of plastic and added it to bitumen meant for road-laying. Nearly 20 km of roads in the southern city had now been subjected to the successful experiment, the Sena corporator added. The National Highways Authority of India and the Central Road Research Institute have also backed the Bangalore project.

** "Every day, Mumbai produces nearly 8,000 tonnes of garbage. And handling plastic garbage is the biggest challenge,'' he said.

** The Bangalore-based plastic waste management company has been asked to draft a similar proposal for Mumbai, which will also tie in with the ban against plastic bags below 20 microns in thickness.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

On Bangalore in a Scottish paper

There is an interesting article on Bangalore in today's Scottish paper Sunday Herald. Read the full article here.

Here are a few excerpts:

** With 80 rupees to the pound and, to take a random example, a lovely curry coming in at as little as 150 and a beer for 60, we’re talking a life of comfort here, if not exactly a new Raj.

** Not only is Bangalore India’s information technology capital, it also claims to be India’s garden city and pub city. I thought I would examine this latter category first. Especially in the light of my discovery of Kingfisher diet lager. I haven’t read the details on the bottle label, but with the word diet in big letters, it must be good for you....

** One of Bangalore’s watering holes is called the Scottish Pub. It does not sell whisky, only beer and a sugary pink wine which is quite Scottish really....

** Another possible Scottish influence is the item on the snack menu called green-peas fry. We would know it better as a hot-pea special, with hot as in spicy.

** Bangalore is full of young IT professionals, so there are plenty of supposedly trendy bars to match. .... Nasa... is a pub whose interior is a space shuttle. I persevered with the loud music and loads of blinking lights but, really, it’s not much fun being an old fart in a spacecraft...

** A kindly local pointed me in the direction of Koshy’s and advised me to try the palak paneer, which he translated as the "green cheese".

** Koshy’s turned out to be an oasis of cool and calm. In a previous life it was known as the Blighty Café. It still offers a wide selection of British dishes from fish and chips to plum pudding. Luckily, the menu also features North Indian, Korean and Chinese cooking. The green cheese turned out to an irresistible marriage of waxy white paneer with a spicy spinach stew.

** LIFE would not be harsh sitting with a soda and lime in Koshy’s. Or popping down to Higginbotham’s book shop to buy the latest Christopher Brookmyre satire. Or even going into Noble’s hosiery to see if you can escape with just buying a pair of socks. Indian hosiers think you should buy an entire wardrobe of shirts, ties, vests, socks, pants and pyjamas on each and every visit and seem mortally offended when you don’t.

** I like the Bangalore railway booking office where I can queue at a window catering specifically to freedom fighters, handicapped persons, senior citizens and foreign tourists. Even as a resident call centre worker, I hope I would still qualify under the category of freedom fighter.

** Buying a rail ticket involves filling in a wonderfully bureaucratic form. They want your name and address which is fine but then they ask your age, your sex and whether you are vegetarian. It was like registering with a dating agency.... It transpires the veg bit was to work out what you wanted for lunch. The age and sex was to help in allocations of bunks.

** The Bangalore folk in general are welcoming and curious. I am apparently related to hundreds of them, since they keep calling me uncle. They also ask without hesitation what age I am, how much money I earn and for full details of my offspring, presumably on the basis that they are cousins....

** The young IT folk can be a touch earnest, with a few of them coming across as a bit pleased with themselves. This is perhaps inevitable in a boom economy where even the less gifted can walk into jobs which pay two or three times the salary of a doctor.... Being IT professionals, they sometimes respond to a simple question by Googling a query on their GSM phone or even whipping out the laptop for a full search.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bangladesh beat Australia

Cricket-Bangladesh beat Australia by five wickets
By Tony Lawrence 4 minutes ago
CARDIFF, June 18 (Reuters) - Bangladesh beat Australia by five wickets on Saturday in a one-day triangular series match.

Scores: Australia 249 for five in 50 overs. Bangladesh 250 for five in 49.2 overs.

This is just unbelievable, and that too against Australia. The way Bangladesh was playing against England was so atrocious, I lost all interest in following it. In one report, Ted Corbett, writing in The Hindu, even compared the Bangladesh team to an amateur school team.

So, was the victory a fluke or fixed? Or am I being uncharitable to a hardworking new comer? Let me see what Corbett will write tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Right to flirt

An interesting clipping from a Reuter's despatch

Workers keep right to flirt

Thu Jun 16,11:37 AM ET

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German court has upheld the right of Wal-Mart staff in Germany to flirt at work, a spokesman said Thursday, showing that Germany's restrictive labor laws also have their permissive aspects.

The court rejected parts of Wal-Mart's code of conduct relating to employees' love lives, alcohol and drug use and a requirement for staff to report code violations via a so-called ethics hotline, the spokesman said. He could not immediately confirm the grounds on which the Wuppertal employment court had ordered the clauses to be removed for German staff, saying the judge's opinion was still in the process of being written.

The Financial Times Deutschland said the court had found the clauses, including one banning "any kind of communication that could be interpreted as sexual," contradicted German labor law, in its ruling on the case brought by Wal-Mart's works council. Wal-Mart Germany, which is based in Wuppertal and can appeal against the decision, had no immediate comment.

The ruling could have far-reaching effects for US companies with staff in Germany. Such restrictions are increasingly common in US corporate culture as firms seek to prevent scandals that could damage their reputation.

An affair with a female executive led to the downfall of Boeing's chief executive in March. The company fired Harry Stonecipher when the affair came to light, saying his conduct broke company rules and damaged his ability to lead.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bangalore under construction

I was just wondering....

How about having a note -- City Under Construction -- against where Bangalore is shown on our maps...

With so much of digging and construction activities going on in the city and on the outskirts, this indication on the map will not only reflect the truth, but also be a warning to tourists, both Indian and foreign.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hooked to Sudoku

I am getting hooked to Sudoku, the number game that is very popular in Japan and that is becoming a craze around the world. At least two Indian newspapers have it The Hindu and The Times of India.

Yesterday, was my first day at it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. At first I got psyched by the game. I took me some 1 and a half hours... I put numbers arbitrarily, and made a mess of it. Then it dawned on me that I should go about it by the method of elimination. I did it in some 45 minutes. Today I could do it in lesser time.

It is actually very. simple. Start filling up each blank square with possible numbers. To know which are these possible numbers, look at the numbers already printed in the horizontal row, vertical column and the square... and write the remaining numbers. There will be one or two or three, or rarely four possible numbers. For some of these empty squares, there can be only one possible number.

As you fill up one grid after the other, by the method of elimination you get the solution.

It's fun!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Advani loses face

In darkness we look for a ray of light. Politics, all over the world, is played without rules. But there is an extent to which things are carried. And, the Advani saga breached that limit.

By withdrawing the resignation he has lost his credibility. Did he fear a split in BJP, which he would have been accused of triggering. Now, for what was all that drama?

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

After Advani...

Strategies are inherent not just to military but raw politics as well. Looking back, Advani's statement that Jinnah was secular seems to have been a well thought out move jointly crafted by he and Vajpayee. Why? Just give it back to the Hindu hardliners, who have been hounding both these senior leaders.

Noticed, how only Vajpayee was there to support him?

It was Advani's decision to be a guest in Musharraf's Pakistan that was more remarkable that anything else. He is (rather was) such a Pakistan basher. That may be one reason he never visited Pakistan when he was in power. Moreover, he had wrecked the Agra summit.

Now, out of power, he decided to visit the country of his birth. A guest lavishing praise on a host is a very normal thing. So, Advani lauding Jinnah or Musharraf or anyone in Pakistan is no big deal. That was why I thought Advani's praise of Jinnah was "just one of those" statements.

Advani is veteran politician, who has seen it all. He will never say or do anything without adequately pondering over the results. Did Advani foresee that his statement on Jinnah would provoke radicals back home? It seems he did. Now the whole thing has come to a head. I think we have seen the last of Advani (and Vajpayee too) in politics.

The parliamentary party has asked him to reconsider his decision. I don't think he will.

Now, BJP faces its toughest challenge. Survival. Not as a party. But as a party acceptable to the world. A party worthy of contesting elections. A party with credentials to rule the country.

The hardliners have now put the onus on the second-rung leaders. We don't need gangsters in the guise of political leaders. Hope BJP doesn't swing back to Hindutva and Pakistan bashing. That would do no one good.

We need statesmen. Not frogs in the well, but visionaries who can see the world in perspective and chart out the role India can play.

Friday, June 3, 2005


I don't know how many of us have pondered over this 8-letter A-word. It is simply the manner in which we feel, think and act. It is the Hero or the Villain determining the state of our society.

Here in Bangalore, one instance I have mostly heard this word being used is among the young crowd: "O! that guy/girl has an attitude." It means nothing but that the person is prejudiced, proud, has an air around him/her and is difficult to deal with.

But we need to understand the A-word beyond that. If you look closely or listen closely, there are countless instances that make you think of Attitude; ours as well as of others.

The most recent occasion when I thought about It was when our city, Bangalore, came to a standstill when clouds opened up just for a few minutes recently. Whereever and whenever a few people got together, the discussion was: why the city (inspite of its worldwide acclaim) is what it is.

The blame was on everyone: from the chief minister to the mayor, the commissioner, the public works depatment, right down to 'we people'. But I thought it was Attitude, which was the villain.

It doesn't matter who we are: rich, middleclass, poor; vegetarian, non-vegetarian; north Indian, south Indian; man, woman, child, one travels in car, one who travels in Municipality bus; a railway ticket booking clerk, software developer, politician, teacher, labourer, fashion model...

Each of them can be good or bad; it's the attitude. In our analysis of situations we tend to use as a denominator things like caste, religion, profession, educational qualification, material possession, spiritual inclinations etc. But, actually those things really don't matter as much as Attitude.

Last month when I was travelling from Chennai to Bangalore by train, there was a ticket examiner. Every time he checked the ticket and returned it to the customer, he said, "Thank you, sir" or "Thank you, madam". He made me feel so good. I looked at his name plate: R. Raghu.
One day I saw on MG Road a guy, walking ahead of me, opening a paper wrapper. Out came a book. But what struck me was, he looked around for a waste paper bin, and on seeing none around, he so effortlessly and naturally put the crumbled wrapper into his pocket. I felt like catching up with him, tapping him gently on his back, and telling him, "Sir, I wish there were more people like you around."

But the fact is that there are indeed many anonymous people like this guy doing quietly the right thing. They straddle all realms of social strata, like I mentioned above. They have the right Attitude.

But they are not as much talked about or written about. Not because their Attitude is not invaluable, but because it is a sine qua non for a healthy society. What is right is no big deal, because that's the way it has to be.

If things aren't going well -- in our house, in our locality, in our city, in our state, in our country, or in this world -- it's because theren't enough people with the right Attitude. Once that is done, efficiency is achieved by way of synergy. Synergy is the simultaneous joint action of different things, which together have a greater effect, than the sum of the individual parts. It's like saying three and two make seven or nine.

We need to be bothered about getting the Right Attitude to various facets of life. Everything else will follow.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Malayalees in top positions

The following clipping from the Indian Express is obviously because I am from Kerala, the southern most state of India. The article says Malayalees (people from the state of Kerala -- so called because they speak the language of Malayalam) occupy many of the top positions in Delhi.

But what I like the best was this paragraph: "Yet, with all the accompanying eminence for the Malaylee’s unwavering sincerity, efficiency, devotion and hard work, there is no visible Malayalee caucus or coterie which has come to dominate Delhi. In fact, the Malayalee mutant is still invisible, unlike the Tamil Brahmin, Bengali or Allahabad Brahmin."

Here is full article. It is quite interesting, for even non-Malayalees, I guess!

Quietly, the Malayalee takes over

From NSA M K Narayanan to RAW chief Hormis Tharakan, the roll call is virtually a who’s who in power

By Vrinda Gopinath

NEW DELHI, MAY 28: Why did the Malayalee cross the road? To join the UPA, he thought it was a trade union. As the first anniversary celebrations of the UPA government fade out, there is still quiet jubilation in a little corner—to exult in the arrival of the Malayalee in Power Delhi.

For the ‘Mundu Mafia’, as they are uncharitably called, has stealthily and silently come to win the confidence and trust of the two most important people in government—Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president and UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.

The roll call is a veritable who’s who in power—in the PMO, it is the Numero Uno, National Security Advisor (NSA) M K Narayanan, a former Intelligence Bureau chief. Initially, while Narayanan looked after the commanding internal security, it was a fellow-Malayalee, the late J N (Mani) Dixit, former foreign secretary, who was the NSA, until he passed away this January. Narayanan simply moved into the job later.

Then there is T K A Nair, principal secretary to the PM, a post which had assumed intoxicating power when Brajesh Mishra occupied the post during A B Vajpayee’s time. Nair, a former Punjab cadre IAS officer, was handpicked by Dr Singh when they served together in the bureaucracy.

The present bureaucratic hierarchy is equally tantalising for the Malayalee:

• The present RAW (our CIA) chief Hormis Tharakan is a Kerala cadre IPS officer—he was pulled out from the state where he was DGP

• The Secretary to President A P J Abdul Kalam is Madhavan Nair—he was former Secretary, Defence Production

• The Commerce Ministry seems to be bristling with key Malayalee bureaucrats despite Kerala’s dismal reputation for trade: S N Menon, Commerce Secretary; K T Chacko, DG for Foreign trade; G K Pillai, Additional Secretary, who now heads the Free Trade Area Cell in the Ministry; Christy Fernandes, Additional Secretary, Anti-Dumping Cell.

• Culture is dominated by Babu Rajeev, DG, Archaeological Survey of India; Dr Sudha Gopalkrishnan, Mission Head, National Manuscripts Mission at the IGNCA.

Then there’s V George, former steno-turned-private secretary to Sonia Gandhi, who invented the phantasmal ‘‘source at 10, Janpath’’, and P P Madhavan, OSD to Gandhi and now close aide to her son, Rahul.

Yet, with all the accompanying eminence for the Malaylee’s unwavering sincerity, efficiency, devotion and hard work, there is no visible Malayalee caucus or coterie which has come to dominate Delhi. In fact, the Malayalee mutant is still invisible, unlike the Tamil Brahmin, Bengali or Allahabad Brahmin.

While the Malayalee Majesties are low-key, the Malayalee majority are quite happy being faceless clerks, forever preferring to file papers in countless rooms in endless corridors.

‘‘The Malayalee is instinctly skeptical and cynical about power and institutions of power,’’ says lauded Malayalee poet K Sachidanandan, Secretary, Sahitya Akademi. ‘‘And joining the establishment is an act of betrayal of the revolution. Because of his in-built sense of freedom and radicalism, he views power as bourgeoisie, shameful and pro-establishment,’’ he says.

However, the ‘bourgeoisie’ Malayalee is seen as unhelpful and distant, and can never be accused of packing his ministry or department with fellow-Malayalees.
‘‘The Malayalee has an intrinsic moral fear of tarnishing his reputation,’’ says Prof N N Pillai, principal, post-graduate college, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. ‘‘So he refuses to oblige even a small favour. He has come a long way from home, and has a lot at stake. Whether the fear of helping his community is good or not is debatable,’’ he says.

Perhaps it is celebrated Malayam author M Mukundan—now ready to launch his new book—who explains the peculiar ‘‘Malaylee anxiety syndrome’’.
Says Mukundan, ‘‘Tension and anxiety is in-built in a Malayalee. When two Malayalees meet for a drink at the India International Centre (IIC) bar, there is no joking and laughter like the Punjabis, instead they worry about a range of issues, from the effects of globalisation to global warming. This is because their education has instilled in them a strong sense of social justice and compassion. For the common Malayalee, this overriding guilt has made him impractical and unambitious.’’