Friday, June 29, 2007

Omgili: new discussion seach engine

Stumbled on a site called Omgili. It searches millions of discussion sites and message boards and tells you "what people are saying about anything and everything".

"Omgili is your way to find 'subjective information'. As opposed to traditional search engines, which search for sites and pages, Omgili finds consumer opinions, debates, discussions, personal experiences, answers and solutions," says the owners of the Omgili, that was established in December last year.

Yet to explore this relatively new site. Looks interesting.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Police station working out of Sainik School

The Sarojini Nagar police station in Lucknow, it seems, doesn't have a place of its own. Established in 1982, the profile of the station, however, has been steadily rising with the increased jurisdictional area.

According to a report in the Lucknow Newsline of the Indian Express of June 22, "the Sarojini Nagar police is carrying out its functions from an old three-room building of the Sainik School, due to the lack of a proper building".

The police are helpless since "the space cannot be utilized for any kind of construction, as the compound belongs to Sainik School", the report says.

Click here for the news item.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Shoppers, head for Malaysia!

A shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur City Centre that has the Petronas Towers on either side

The Starhill Gallery mall in Kuala Lumpur. It was here that the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival was inaugurated on June 16

The Jalan Petaling or Chinatown as it is known in Kuala Lumpur.

A shopping mall in Chinatown

A shopper in Chinatown

A typical roadside eatery at night on Doraiswamy Street in KL.

Malaysia is on a roll. The excitement of the nation turning 50 is palpable: malls and food courts are overflowing with tourists. The “Visit Malaysia Year 2007” campaign that kicked off in January has been such a success that the government is embarking on a year-long ‘One Golden Celebration’ from Independence Day, August 31, this year.

The results are showing. Tourism is Malaysia’s second-largest foreign exchange earner. Over 1.75 crore visitors netted an equivalent of about Rs 43 thousand crore last year, which saw a 6.8% growth in tourist arrivals and 13.5% increase in revenue. Besides, the sector provides over 13 lakh jobs of which about 5 lakh are direct.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said shopping activities alone accounted for 25.7% of the overall tourism revenue last year. Not surprisingly, the country is being positioned as the most favoured shopping destination. The Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival that was inaugurated last week will be open till September 2 and has lots of special discounts on offer. On July 6, special midnight sales will open at selected malls in KL, Johor Bahru and Penang.

The Golden Triangle comprising Jalan Imbi, Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan Sultan Ismail areas is KL’s shopping paradise, with malls, nightspots, cafes and restaurants. A new trend in Malaysia is the hypermarket concept. Tesco from the UK and Carrefour from France are among the mammoth supermarkets providing customers wide ranging goods at competitive prices all under one roof.


Street shopping provides an amazing view of Malaysia. Shop, stop for a leisurely lunch, appreciate the fine architecture and shop again – all on the same street. Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in KL is a road flanked on both sides by pre-war buildings whose interesting facades house shops selling textiles, oriental art, antiques and curios. Jalan Petaling in KL’s Chinatown bustles with traders selling bags, clothes, watches etc. Customers need to bargain here.

Flea markets are another attraction. At the many indoor and outdoor stalls hundreds congregate to trade their wares. The atmosphere is vibrant and colourful and it’s a place for antiques, handmade crafts, jewellery and curios.

To enjoy the typical Malaysian way of life, one must drop in at the local farmer’s market or ‘pasar tani’. Held in the mornings, it is a hive of activity when farmers gather once a week with their fresh fruits, flowers, poultry, meat and other farm products. That’s where womenfolk do their early morning shopping and stock up for the whole week.

The Malaysian ‘pasar malam’, or the night market, stretches from 5 pm to 11 pm along an otherwise quiet stretch of street. Here, one can sample authentic Malaysian foods – Malay fish crackers, Chinese herbal drinks, Indian dosais, sweets and more.


More Indians are traveling now: 2,79,046 Indians went to Malaysia in 2006 and 4 lakh are expected to visit this year, India is seventh in the list; Singapore is on top with 96,56,251 tourists from that country. Tourism minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor launched recently “Visit Malaysia Year Passport” exclusively for Indians. It contains a set of discount coupons for over 100 products and services that can be used at theme parks, food outlets and boutiques.

Over 1,500 Indian travel agents are giving away the coupons with holiday packages. In addition, beginning September this year, multiple entry visas at Rs 650 will be available from the Malaysian consulate in Mumbai. This visa is 50 per cent cheaper than the single-entry ones.

(Published in The Times of India, Bangalore, on June 23, 2007)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Presidential poll tamasha

The ongoing tamasha over incumbent Abdul Kalam's unlikely nomination for another Presidential term does no one good. Why Kalam is still being pressurised defies reason. Kalam, on his part, displayed an uncharacteristic indecisiveness in failing to state clearly if he is looking for a second term or not. Now parties must gracefully accept that there are only two main candidates - Pratibha Patil and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Do away with the present system of election. Let the President be chosen directly by the people. That will be less confusing than the indirect proportional representation method, and the winner will be the perfect people's choice.

Sainik School Purulia alumni meet

The old boys of Sainik School, Purulia, West Bengal, met with their families in Kohima. Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio, himself an alumnus, joined his former school mates. He donated Rs 50,000 to the Old Boys Association. Nagaland's forest minister, Kheto is also a product of this school. (Report in Nagaland Post)

The Old Boys Day of my alma mater, Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala, will be celebrated on July 7.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Malaysia, Truly Asia

The Time is Now. The Place is Malaysia. Truly Asia.

That's the tagline of Tourism Malaysia, which is promoting an industry that's the second highest money spinner for this Southeast Asian nation. This is a small nation -- 2.6 crore people across an area of 3.2 lakh sq km. It's a very multicultural society: Malay and other indigenous making up 58%, Chinese 24%, Indian 8%, others 10%. It's truly Asia.

This is the 50th year of Malaysia's independence. And the government there has year-long festivities, majorly directed at tourists, both domestic and foreign.

It's no wonder that the country is such a hot tourist destination for people from across the world. Not merely because of the impressive natural beauty, but because of the fantastic infrastructure the country has. We aren't talking of capital Kuala Lumpur alone here, but smaller towns.

What strikes you first are the broad roads with neatly demarcated lanes. Not only are there no potholes, but there'sn't any litter anywhere. And when you observe closely you find, part of the reason the heavy traffic moves smoothly is because of the good roads.

The size of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport dwarfs you. It's so big that you don't find any people in the airport! I'm sure it has been designed with some real longterm planning going into it. It is located on 10,000 hectares. After four and a half years of round the clock work, it became fully fully operational in 1998. A section of the road that leads to the airport has 12 lanes -- six on each side of the road divider!

The weeklong tour of Malaysia is weighing quite heavily on me still. I am sure it will take some time for me to sift through the photos and notes. But, surely this blog will acquire quite a bit of Malaysian flavour from now on. I don't think I can shake it off so soon.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My postings delayed

I am on an official tour, and there is little time to blog. All I am able to do is check the mail, just in case anything urgent is demanding my attention. My tour has taken me to very interesting places and it has provided me golden opportunity to see different cultures and interact with so many people.

You must be wondering where I am now. I am very much on Earth! I Let the suspense be on! I shall post a series of travellogues along with pictures after I get back. But expect that only from the 20th.

I have just managed to type this out. Got to go now.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I am travelling

I don't have continuous access to internet. So, expect some delay in publication of your comments.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why rules don't work

I was discussing the other day with someone how people violate rules with impunity. When I said a society needs rules for maintaining order, he came out with a strange observation:

"You know why we have rules? Simple, so that officials can get bribes!"

Take bribes? I was surprised. How does that work?

"There are so many rules -- take anything: be it on driving, constructing buildings, opening a new office, getting birth certificate, whatever -- none of us know what they are."

According to him, most of us are violating one rule or the other!

But how is that related to bribes?

"Simple," he says. "Have these webs of rules, ensure that no one knows them. All that an official needs to do is flash the rule book on your face, slap the fine. When you plead ignorance of the rule, he will consider your appeal; but then as a win-win concession deal, he'll subtly hint that he be paid off. Since you know that you have actually violated the rule, and stand no chance of winning this battle, you agree to end the ordeal by giving the official a bribe."

This guy's generalisation really shocked me. One, he thinks all the officials are corrupt. Second, he presumes our society can't be a rule-abiding one. Third, he thinks all of us are willing to break the rules and pay bribe.

Of course, too many rules do throttle the efficient functioning of a society, but the above view is a dangerously defeatist thought.

Is this the reason, most of the rules are violated?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Green thoughts

My first thoughts today -- on World Environment Day -- is how hot my city, Bangalore, has become. Of course, anyone who has just landed here from any other city would rubbish my statement as absurd, but there is no denying the fact that every place has become hotter than before. High-altitude summer tourist locations, like Ooty, too are no longer as cool in summer as they used to be.

Concern for environment used to be merely fashionable; no longer. Many, with be benefit of hindsight, realise now that all the noise environmentalists used to make many years ago, might have been worth it, after all.

Like most issues this too needs to be tackled at two levels: micro and macro. If each individual does her or his little bit to care for the surroundings, we'll definitely achieve a lot. As Aditya suggests in this post, what is demanded of us are very simple steps like:

-- switch off unwanted light, fan, computer etc

-- do not waste water

-- use CFL lamps instead of ordinary filament lamps

-- do not litter, use the wastepaper basket

-- when there is a choice go for biodegradable material

But, unfortunately, more than lack of awareness, the problem lies in our inability to adopt the right method. Educated, knowledgeable people throwing on to the road wastepaper and the like from their cars is a very common sight. They do that not because they are are not aware that they shoudn't do it, but because they don't care; or more precisely, there'sn't a trigger that makes them care.

A good majority of people belong to this category. That's why awareness campaigns haven't yielded what they should have. This is where we need a strong administration that will force such people to take care of the environment. If people don't care, the government must force them to take care.

PS: If the government too doesn't take care... God help us!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Help 'em if you can

The three men walking by, much like the many vagabonds you find on the streets, would have easily missed my eyes had it not been for the strange clapping sound they were making with their hands. But ususally I associated such distinctive claps with people dressed as women. Yes, they could also be dressed as men, I soon realised.

They live on the fringes of an insensitive society that looks at them with disdain and derision. They are the transgender persons, the hijras as they are referred to in India. They are neither fully women or men. Or, are they both? Some say they bring in good luck. But why should people have such a dismissive attitude towards them?

These three men were dressed in a faded saffron lungi and shirt. Following them were two more, and one among them, moved towards a roadshide tea shop and extended his hand for alms. The teashop owner refused to give him any money saying those who went ahead had collected. That was a clear lie. The hijra got angry, opened a glass bottle that contained toffees, put his hand inside, took out a palm-full of them and walked away.

I then noticed two more of the group coming up; they were dressed as women. One of them saw the guy picking the toffees, and was clearly upset by that. She chided him loudly and asked him to return them to the shopkeeper. To be sure, she followed him and she apologised to the shopkeeper for the discretion committed by one in the group.

"Sorry, we don't take anything by force. Give only if you wish to give anything," she told the shopkeeper. Then the shopkeeper handed over a Re 1 coin. "If you give, give wholeheartedly," the woman continued.

This time the one who was embarrassed was the shopkeeper. To begin with he could have given them a rupee or two; even a five wouldn't have caused him a loss in business. On the part of the hijaras, it was so refreshing to see her apologise.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Punjab may get another Sainik School

India will have its 22nd Sainik School, in Punjab, if the assurance given by defence minister A K Antony to chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, fructufies. This will be in addition to the one in Kapurthala. (Read report here)

List of all 21 Sainik Schools