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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Desipundit gets a makeover

Yeah, and the new design looks really good and professional. The site has a lot more colour and is really lively -- very desi. Check out the new design. I'm sure you'll love it!

No Vinci Code!

This is absolutely ridiculous. The Tamil Nadu State Government has decided to suspend the release of The da Vinci Code in the state; this despite the Central Government clearing the movie for release.

According to a press release:
The screening of the movie might hurt the religious feelings and sentiments of the Christian community and lead to demonstrations and disturb peace and tranquillity within the State...

One year on...

To start a blog is easy; but to maintain one is among the toughest things...

... thus started a mediocre blog. A year and 200 posts later, it still remains that way - more importantly, it remains!

Today is my first blogiversary.

Thanks everyone for tolerating my rants; thanks especially to those who drop in regularly in the hope of finding out "Has this person written something useful at least this time?"

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bring in the experts

One of the major problems in India's downfall in the recently concluded one-day series against the West Indies is the absence of a solid opening pair.

Sehwag has been very tentative for a long time now. A couple of boundaries and then he holes out. Gautam Gambhir's inconsistency led to his being dropped from the side. A clueless Dravid had to push himself up the order. Though Dravid has done well as an opener, it is not his position. We need him at number 4 or 5, where he can steady an innings and launch after the 40-over mark. This has been felt badly by the team, because in this series, we had good starts, but blew it away after 35 overs.

The immediate requirement for the Indian cricket team is a good opener, someone who can hang in there. It is a specialised slot, and it requires a specialist. Gambhir would have been ideal, but he throws his bat around as much as Sehwag does, and that serves no purpose. We need someone who can keep a low profile, play second fiddle to Sehwag and weather the storm. If we are looking to win the next World Cup, we need an opening batsman who tackle these unfriendly, unforgiving Caribbean pitches.

A request to you, Mr. Chappell: let's develop an expert opener!

Videos from Sivaji

Last week, it was the photos which did the rounds. Now, a few videos from the shooting of Rajnikanth's latest movie, Sivaji: The Boss, are out. Someone's shot a few videos, which show thalaivar and some other dancers practising before a shoot, in Bilbao, Spain.

There were a few who felt that the photos could have been leaked by someone on the sets. I have a feeling this has been done intentionally by the production team to whip up anticipation amongst the public.

This video shows the superstar trying out a step.

Here are links to two other videos on YouTube: Rajni practising a step, a group of dancers rehearsing.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Want to make friendship?

In online chatrooms, girls are always at a premium. Sensing this, many boys / men impersonate as girls and have great fun at the expense of some poor unfortunate soul. If you haven't tried it before, I urge you to do -- it is such a joy. Of course, Orkut has changed all that, but still that one amazing phrase lives on.

Those who chat with girls have only three questions to ask: "a/s/l?", "pic?" and "do you want to make friendship with me?" In Orkut, this last question goes into scrapbooks.

Online friendships are strange, but fun. I'm sure most of us have tried our hand at it, at least in curiosity. However, the one downside of it is the durability of such a friendship.

In case you are interested in acquiring a new friend, I suggest you try this new website -- Fo.rtuito.us -- it is quite interesting. Once you sign up with Fo.rtuito.us, you are assigned a friend at random. All you know about him / her is the sign-in ID and a picture uploaded by him / her. That's all. You can exchange messages with this person via the website over the ensuing four-day period. If you hit off with this assigned friend, you get to add that person. In any case, you will be assigned a new friend in four days.

I tried it; at least, the first time you do it, it is kinda interesting. After that... well, try it if you are really vetti.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Does Trisha have a male voice?

While returning home from work a couple of days ago, I had to endure one of the worst Tamil film songs I have listened to in a long time. I had not listened to it before, so I couldn't arrive at the movie without googling. And you wouldn't disagree with me on the point that Olli Olli Iduppe Ottiyaanam Edhukku from Vijay's latest super-duper flop Aadhi is among the worst songs ever to (dis)grace Tamil film music.

Let's leave out the lyrics, of which the lesser said the better. But what prompted Vidyasagar to ask Anuradha Sriram to sing in a male voice, I cannot understand. Probably it is some situation in the movie where the heroine has lost a bet with someone and has to sing a particularly poor song in a particularly stupid voice.

This is not the first time that Trisha features in a song where the female lead sings in a male voice. I can recall that the equally poor Thiruppaachi had such a song too. Now, we all know that music directors pick playback singers to suit the actor and the situation. Other things remaining the same, I really really wonder what Trisha's real voice sounds like...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pudhupettai: powerful, ruthless, spectacular

When was it last you saw a gangster movie in Tamil? Pattiyal, you say? That was about contract killers. I'm asking you about a gansta' movie. When was it last that you saw a movie which reached out from the screen and hit you hard in the face?

Want to savour both those experiences in a bit over three hours? Go watch Selvaraghavan's Pudhupettai (whichever way you want to spell it: Pudupettai, Puthupettai, புதுப்பேட்டை)

The movie is about an adolescent who is driven to the world of crime because of circumstances, and his rise and rise in the underworld. It shows us that promising Dhanush who went AWOL since Kaadhal Konden. Kudos to him for choosing to get back to his brother for that badly-needed hit, and more kudos to Selvaraghavan for extracting the very best out of his brother.

With his physique, Dhanush might not convince us as the perfect gangster, but his acting -- boy, he's simply poured his heart into this movie. He has put in such a riveting performance that the jury for the State Awards can tell themselves they won't see a better acting performance this year.

The movie depicts reality in all its gory glory. It's long, mind you, well over 3 hours. And the story just keeps unfolding. Personally, beyond the 150-minute mark, I kept peering into my watch telling myself, "Oh, please, let this movie not end." And that's because each scene has been handled with utmost care. So much that one cannot say which is the best scene in the movie. Each scene clashes with every other scene in the fight to be called the best.

The background score is brilliant; top marks to Yuvan. Arvind Krishna's camera work is magical. Every actor has chipped in with a good performance. In fact, the person sitting next to me quipped once, "How do they spot these actors? They are so natural, and so very good." Sneha has put in a good performance. The same cannot be said about Sonia Agarwal though; but her screen presence is limited, and the characterisation is weak.

The only real spoiler, if you ask me, is the last ten minutes of the movie. There is a point in this film (just as Pasi Sathya departs) where the credits should have come up, and the audience would have left with a heavy heart, and in absolute praise. But the three ensuing scenes dilute that effect, and make you wonder, "Why did they do this? Why spoil the experience?"

However, if you choose to overlook the last ten minutes, I think this movie deserves a perfect ten! A movie like this, I have not seen before in Tamil. At least not since Dalapathi!

Pudhupettai is not a modern classic; it is a modern epic!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Shunya - India's slashdot?

Thanks to a friend, I stumbled onto Shunya - a site which claims to be "a community site for people interested in contemporary Indian Technology." Slashdot users will find the layout familiar.

The content is India-centric. For example, today's front page has articles on whether semiconductor fabrication plants are a wise move, outsourcing, Microsoft's desi-centric applications etc.

To compare it to Slashdot would be, I agree, just too much. However, the site is good for a start. Maybe with more users and more traffic, the site can take off big time.

Shunya is also available in Hindi, which is pleasantly surprising.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Where is the BJP?

The decline began two years ago, when India's electorate rejected the claim that the nation was shining. And ever since, the Bharatiya Janata Party has never been taken seriously.

Of course, you get to see a few leaders on news channels, and sometimes protesting outside the Parliament, but the party which once trumpeted "Able leader, stable government" is on the brink of caving in.

Picture this. Two years of the UPA. Such a poor excuse for a government. On the second anniversary, as everyone in the UPA gathers to celebrate (?!?), there are so many burning issues. Arjun Singh doesn't even know what he is doing, and triggers off Mandal II. Protesting medicos. And to top it all, Meira Kumar suggests that the private sector should voluntarily bring in reservations within two years. Srinagar is rocked. The Sensex crashes. There is talk of a major fuel price hike.

And yet the BJP, the main opposition party, is nowhere to be seen or heard. Any other party would have torn the Government to shreads. The BJP though is quite content in stoking its own internal clashes.

A couple of weeks ago, five states went to polls. Of more than 800 assembly seats, the BJP managed to win a very low number. This when projected in the Parliament would give them less than half a dozen seats. And every other seat would have gone to the UPA. Agreed that the BJP has never done well in any of these states. Agreed that the Left is spineless enough to support the Congress at the Centre after engaging in slanging matches in Kerala and West Bengal. But that is no excuse for the BJP.

The situation is compounded by the fact that the party is treated as an untouchable almost everywhere. No one wants to get into an alliance with the BJP. And their own parivar is unhappy that the party is compromising its core ideology.

That leaves them only one choice -- unless the BJP can sweep the Hindi heartland, 2009 is a lost dream. But that is easier said than achieved. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat have BJP governments, where anti-incumbency might come into play. Uttar Pradesh's polity is fractured, and indications are that Mayavati is the current frontrunner. Maharashtra, Bihar and Jharkhand, well you never know.

Though the present Government is bumbling, the BJP is at pains to find an issue to touch base with the common man. Worse, the party is unable to keep its own flock together. Even worse is the lack of solid alliance partners. Add to this the loss of Pramod Mahajan, a key strategist and negotiator... and you have a party which seems doomed.

One wonders, what's cooking at 11, Ashoka Road?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kakuro \

You might have come across this term while browsing. I tried solving one about a month ago, but left it half-way. But I didn't know it was such a rage before Kaps wrote about it replacing Sudoku in bookstores.

Wikipedia defines Kakuro or Cross Sums thus:

... is a very common type of logic puzzle that is often referred to as a mathematical transliteration of the crossword. In principle, Cross Sums puzzles are integer programming problems, and can be solved using matrix techniques, although they are typically solved by hand.
That itself is enough to drive away a matrix-averse person like me. Hold on, it isn't as nerd-ish as it sounds.

A typical Kakuro puzzle looks like this. The objective is to fill out the white squares (the ones without any numbers or crosses) with numbers from 1 to 9 such that the sum of numbers in the same line as a clue adds up to the clue. That sounds pretty easy, but unless you tinker with a puzzle or two, it is quite tough to get the funda behind this game.

There are a lot many websites where you can try your hand at this new craze. Kakuro.com and Kakuro.net are the top links from Google. It is also a good idea to check out a host of other websites which offer Kakuro games. If you are just starting, do try out the Kakuro tutorial applet and the walkthrough on Kakuro.net.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Can you bear this?

Sensex? Senf***ed-up!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Trivial matters

Ok, here's a bit of trivia, if you like... What connects me to Petr Cech, the Chelsea and Czech Republic goalkeeper?

Tough one, eh? I'll give you another clue... What connects me to Petr Cech and Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)? And Roger Milla too!

Enough of footie, you say? How about the movies? What do James Stewart and Cher have in common with me?

Puzzled? Can you think of a connection between great Israeli general, Moshe Dayan and yours truly? Or His Holiness the Late Mahaperiyaval of the Kanchi Mutt, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati?

Or the great Honore de Balzac who wrote the immortal statement, "Behind every great fortune, there is a crime"... Or the proponent of utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill?

It's the 20th of May, Sherlock!

Spielberg's Munich

This is the kind of movie you would want to recommend to anyone asking him / her to drop whatever he / she is doing. Spielberg's Munich is a modern classic!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fiction friction

Thankfully, The da Vinci Code has been cleared by the Censor Board after a special screening was held to please the leaders of the Indian Christian community.

Rediff.com reports:

After watching the controversial film Da Vinci Code at a special show in New Delhi on Thursday, the Censor Board has cleared the film with an 'Adult' certificate.

The film has been cleared without cuts, but it will carry a disclaimer at the beginning and at the end.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Sí, sí, sí..."

"... la copa ja està aquí!"

deserve... persevere... succeed!

As Simon Barnes, Chief Sports Writer for The Times, described it:

There was no Miracle of Paris, then, just a predictable victory to the predictable victors. But it did not come about in a predictable manner...
Barca! Barca! Barca!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Random thoughts

Take for instance, The Hindu's decision to waste the first page of yesterday's edition by displaying a picture of members of the Indian cricket team having a fun time in Caribbean waters. What an utter waste! I'm not saying that there are enough burning issues to occupy that space, but this certainly does not qualify to be there. Why should "the grand old lady of Mount Road" stoop to the levels of the page 3-est DC?

Confessions of a young girl

Last evening, some careless channel browsing led me to NDTV Profit. The family of the slain Indian engineer Suryanarayana was back in the news. His wife, the one who had consumed some poisonous stuff, is recovering. Personally, I detest this affliction of TV channels to place a camera in front of wailing family members; however, this news item was different.

It seems that Suryanarayana's eldest daughter, Anisha, is good at drawing. And she had drawn something (I don't remember what). When asked, she was saying, "I used to draw and show the pictures to many father. He used to appreciate me very much..." At the next sentence, I froze. "My brother is too young to understand anything. I don't know how I am going to explain to him." Perhaps only a simple sentence, but I found it heart-wrenching!

Thiruttu Payale

Watched this movie, partly because it was highly rated by the newspaper reviews. Not disappointing. The story is not quite believable, however the screenplay made it engaging. Despite Mirchi Suchi's dubbing, Malavika's performance in a negative role was good. The director could have chosen to avoid protracted stunt scenes. Not one to steal your heart, but worth a watch.

Ilaiyaraja's Thiruvasagam

After a gap of about 2 months, I am back to listening to the mastro's rendition of Thiruvasagam. What about it draws me so much, I wonder. Perhaps it is because this work combines three things I like very much - religion, poetry and music.

I have heard of oxymorons (contradictory terms, like "deafening silence"). Come to think of it, "religious poetry" is probably the best anti-oxymoron ever coined.

Excuse my lack of vocabulary; however, none of the online dictionaries I consulted have an antonym for the word oxymoron. And it is time to invent one. How about oxygenius? Or hydromoron? Alright, pardon me, I just woke up...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

In conversation: Santhanagopalan Vasudev

This morning, Vatsan and I met Santhanagopalan Vasudev for an informal chat at his residence. Lok Paritran's Chief Advisor and candidate for the Mylapore constituency made many heads turn by finishing an impressive third at the hustings, above many established parties and candidates (BJP, DMDK, Chandralekha, Americai Narayanan, Mukta Srinivasan). And he patiently answered our questions. Here is a transcript.

So how does it feel to have performed impressively in your maiden election?

It is a good feeling. We are enthused by the response from the electorate in Mylapore. Of course, given that it was a spontaneous decision to contest these elections, and also that we had limited resources at our disposal, we have reason to feel satisfied at having made a decent start

There have been a few who have remarked that your party did not campaign enough...

(smiles) I don't think that is true. The fact is we went on a door-to-door campaign, but the response that you get from people during a door-to-door campaign may not be taken as a certain vote for you. People tend to vote according to allegiances.

You have had a lot of support from the media, especially the new media. Blogs, emails et al. But can they serve as alternatives to the traditional campaigning methods.

Yes, that is true. But we have left no medium untouched. Some bloggers did their bit, so did people who forwarded emails in support of our party. But the fact remains that unless people come out with us and campaign, things won't happen. The media is no alternative.

But with people in blogosphere, you have the problem of your ideology not being communicated properly. There are many we have come across who hold the view that every educated citizen should support you. They even call others 'morons'.

I have no control over such individuals. And that is not my view, nor is it the view of our party. However, in case anyone had questions about our party's ideology or our modus operandi, they could have called us instead. Our numbers are published everywhere. They can even come up and talk to one of us. With us, accessibility is not a problem at all. I have given you an audience.

And the TV and print media have given you some good publicity. They associate you with characters from Yuva and Ayutha Ezhuthu...

Well, the media has been calling us the IITian party, whereas we are a not a party only of IITians. None of the seven candidates who contested in Tamil Nadu are IITians. It does give us a name-tag, but just because our founder is an IITian doesn't mean the party should be identified with the IITs. As for the comparison with Yuva, we had a 56-year old housewife as a candidate. The media picks the easier bits and makes them big.

How do you break the perception of elitism? Your vote bank would be the educated class, and the forward classes. How do you garner votes from the slums?

I'm pretty sure that a good number of the votes I polled came from the slums. In fact, I came to know from various sources that people from one of the major parties went about telling the slum-dwellers that we had been formed by the other major party just to break their vote bank. If we weren't successful at wooing the slum votes, why would anyone indulge in such a cheap tactic? The truth is the parties know that they can buy votes from such people. Logic does not work with them. You and I can sit and think about national problems. But for someone whose next meal is a doubt, it is instant money which works.

Not just that. Let me give you an interesting statistic. The total electorate in Mylapore in 1996 was 2.1 lakhs. In 2001, it was 2.8 lakhs. Today, it is 2.33 lakhs. What does that mean? It simply means that there are things beyond our control, invisible forces. I personally know a person whose name is not in the electoral rolls. But both his neighbours have their names. The reason is this person belongs to one party, while the other two both belong to another party.

What would you have done, had won you won in Mylapore?

Mylapore, or any other constituency, has a few fundamental problems. I would have set out to address them. If you think about it, no one has any doubt what the problems are. And everyone is sure that they must be addressed. Yet the same problems remain. Our agenda clearly addresses these fundamental issues.

Take for example, the traffic problem. Everyone knows that the number of vehicles is increasing day after passing day. But which city does not have traffic problems? Even New York City is no exception. So what is the solution? The solution is that Chennai should grow. It is a small city, and it must grow. The solution is obvious, it doesn't need a scientist to figure it out. The most basic problems are all like that. You don't need to be intelligent to arrive at a solution. But putting that in action, that requires a lot more.

There is a criticism that your party follows the Hindutva agenda...

Well, I can only say what I know. As a Hindu, I have been exposed to the Vedas, so I can quote from them, and use the knowledge of the same. If one of us believes in a particular religion, what is wrong? We don't want to be pseudo-secularists. There are just too many such parties in India.

In any case, I do not think that this criticism is well-founded. Nowhere have I or any of our other partymen brought out the issue of caste or religion.

But Dravidian politics is caste-based. For example, the PMK always plays the Vanniyar card...

That is true. Caste is an identity. The strategy employed by parties has been to garner votes on some such identity. If the people are divided on casteist lines, they play the caste card. Else they play the religion card. We do not believe that we should be doing that; if we did so, what is the difference between us and them? That said, we cannot wish away identities. The idea is to reach out to everyone and not play isolation games.

Was your approach to the elections correct? Would you not have been better off with the bottom-up approach? Being a new player, why contest directly for the assembly?

We have spent considerable time thinking about the strategy to follow. Of course, there are a hundred different ways to do it. However those who proffer various ideas do not know the ways to implement it. You suggest a bottom-up approach. Do you know how long it would take us?

Yes, it takes time, I'm sure. But how do you build a cadre? Especially given that your party relies on college students for campaigns... That's not permanent, don't you think so?

True, but a bottom-up approach does not necessarily mean we can build a cadre. Maybe we should go to villages and start from there, that's what you imply. But how many villages, and how can we ensure a presence everywhere? The point about a floating cadre is correct. But that also ensures that we have people who would be willing to work with us. If one batch passes out, we have the next batch coming in. Moreover, it is not just about having a permanent vote bank. It is about creating an awareness.

But college students tend to be romantics. How do you get work done?

Yes, the idea of being part of a change is very appealing to a romantic. But there are also many who would like to work with us. It is not about those sitting at home and cribbing about things not being right. If things are not right, they have to be set right -- you have to set them right.

Instead of waiting for elections, isn't it a good idea to involve yourself in social work?

The point where social work differs from politics is that the former evokes a spontaneous emotional response, whereas the latter need not. If I said, "Come, let's go clean up the slums" a hundred people would join me immediately. However, if I wish to convert the same into vote bank, that is not service, that is exploitation, and I don't want to be party to that.

In India, social activism in on one side, with numerous activists; politicians are on the other side dealing with macro problems. There is a divide between the two, with social activists being outside the system. beyond a point its policy which matters. It is also important to consider the scope of the work. When you get down to doing social work, you are attempting to solve micro problems, say the problems of one person, or a small group of persons.

A case in point is Medha Patkar. She is able to win hearts, but the problem she is trying to address is limited in scope. Moreover, she is not able to turn her tireless work to fruition. In active politics, you get the chance to tackle macro issues, and also the power to solve them. We are a national party, and I believe that we should ready ourselves for addressing social problems with political activism.

Do you have plans to contest the local body elections?

We are discussing about that.

And what about Gujarat and Delhi?

(emphatically) Yes. We will contest many more seats in Gujarat. In fact, that is one wrong thing we did in Tamil Nadu. When people saw that we were contesting only 7, they obviously thought that we couldn't do much, so why vote? The problems in Delhi are of a different nature, and so is the electorate. We will give both these our best shot.

And if your focus shifts to these two states, what are your plans for Tamil Nadu or Chennai?

Of course, we have plans for Tamil Nadu. Our focus on Gujarat or Delhi will not lessen our commitment to this state. Presently, our constraint is the number of volunteers we have. In Tamil Nadu, that is about 90 now. We will seek to expand that. As I have mentioned previously, our decision to contest the just-concluded elections was spontaneous. Our future decisions will be calculated and well-planned.

For a political party, especially a new one, staying in the limelight after the elections is a huge task. How are you going manage that?

We are a national party. Hence we will always be able to stay in the limelight. In fact, we already have a large number of people in Bangalore and Hyderabad asking us when we will come over there. I'm sure the response there will be just as good. And as we progress, it will become better. Our ideology is one, but the strategy we choose will depend on the place and the circumstances. A single strategy will not work everywhere. However, the problems in many areas are essentially the same.

Any comments on freebie politics?

That's on its way out.

Reservations in education?

That is a classic case of the solution creating more problems than the problem itself. I'm sure there is a lack of equilibrium, and in order to establish equilibrium, some sections of society need to be given a push. However, I'm very doubtful about introducing reservations in medical education. After all, it is a question of life and death. Why would I want anyone who is incompetent to be handling such a situation? Should we open up reservations in niche areas? I will not favour it.

What is on your economic agenda? How are you going to set right India's economy?

Frankly, I don't have any concrete agenda. The fact is we are a new party. We know that there are plans now, and that they don't work. The existing policies are flawed. So, we need to do a lot of research on those lines and come up with policies that will work.

How do you fund your party's activities?

People like you have to share with us your resources.

You can dip into NRI pockets...

Sure, that is an idea. But the requisite infrastructure for that has to be put in place. We have a small team working with us. And we need more people to implement all these ideas. Even setting up a Paypal account and a Donate page takes some effort. The effort may be very little, but it still requires someone to do it.

What change do you think you can bring about?

We know for sure, all of us, that the current political setup is not correct, and it has contributed negatively to our country's growth. You and I are in the same mess. I think it is time to clean up the mess, and I seek your support. It is all too easy to pass comments about politicians and the state of our country. We think it takes courage to stand up, and we think we have ideas to make things happen.

I am not saying only I can do it. We feel that anyone interested in this country should stand up and be counted. I have no problems if you join the DMK or the ADMK, so long as you do good work. I'm not saying only Lok Paritran can give good governance. If you can clean up the mess, I'm fine with it. I have other things to do, and I would be happy and supportive if you can do it.

As I have always maintained, it is not about political power, but about political activism. Why stay away when you know you can be an agent of change?

Friday, May 12, 2006

'Thank you' note

Recently I had loaned out money -- a considerable sum -- to a friend. He sent me a 'Thank you' note, which read thus:

Dear Vijay,

I've received your money. Thanks a lot for the same. Considering the situation I was in, it proved immensely useful. I will remain eternally indebted to you for the same.

What? Eternally indebted? Come on, friend, that is not the way to thank me!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My vote

So whom did I vote for in the elections three days ago? The answer is irrelevant really, but at least I had a reason -- and most voters don't have one.

My mom recalls that in 1967, when C.N. Annadurai, fondly known as Arignar Anna, was campaigning, it was his practice to walk past every home and personally ask people to vote for the DMK. Those were days when Chennai had no TV station. Air-conditioned, high-security cars were not in vogue. And candidates used to walk, walk and walk to canvass for votes. (You see, they still remembered Gandhi in those days.)

Cut to 2006. The sitting MLA (2001 - 2006) in my constituency didn't come to within 2 kilometres of our locality. That's ok, really, because people in power forget those who voted for them.

But during this campaign, neither the DMK nor the ADMK candidate visited my locality. Agreed, it is the largest constituency in Asia, yet it is their place. If they want votes, they better come around and ask. I'm not saying they must come to every home and break bread with all of us. But what stops them from a drive past every single road?

I voted for neither principal party. I voted for the candidate who drove past my home canvassing for votes. He belonged to a party that won't win at all, I was sure. But he had passed the simple criterion. It was like Alan Shearer or Francesco Totti staying put at the same club though they knew they wouldn't win anything - yet they played week in week out. All they played for was the cheering crowd.

I voted for _____ of the ______ party, because he was the only one who cared to come around.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Election fun

As the counting progresses, it seems evident that the DMK alliance is going to form the next government. However, the guys at Rediff.com, definitely over-enthusiastic I'm sure, are showing a surplus number os seats for the alliance. Check this out!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I've voted. Have you?

I've exercised my democratic duty. It's your turn. Please vote!

Chennai-Delhi distance, boon or bane?

CNN-IBN's Battle for Tamil Nadu was probably the best election show by a "northern" news channel on tomorrow's elections. Perhaps I'm supporting the show because it was shot in the lawns of my alma mater, but really it was much better than NDTV's show hosted by Barkha Dutt - the latter was simply too distant from the people.

Cho Ramaswamy was there, as he was in NDTV's show the other day; it is a tribute to his popularity that he is sought after by every news channel. And Cho-isms were in abundance. The best of it all was this...

Rajdeep: "So, is the Chennai-Delhi distance a boon or a bane? Mr Ramaswamy, you have the final word."
Cho: "Without doubt, the distance is a boon. You can pack off 60 people from Tamil Nadu, and keep them a long distance away from here. Of course, it is a boon!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blogging with the pundits

I've joined the DesiPundit team, and will share with you the best of my expeditions into Indian blogosphere, along with my co-pundits. To borrow the words of my fellow-joinee Jinal, "it's a little surreal to join the pundits, but I'm not complaining."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Question on Mani Ratnam's movies

A friend asked me this thoughtful question over lunch today: "Barring Kannathil Muthamittaal, is there any Mani Ratnam movie in which some portion (even a song) was shot outside India?"

We tried recalling all of Mani's Tamil movies.
  • Pagal Nilavu - no idea
  • Nayagan was set in Bombay, so no chance
  • Anjali was set in Chennai
  • Roja, in Kashmir, so might have been shot in Shimla, Manali, or even Ooty
  • Dalapathi, somewhere in South India, methinks Mysore
  • Agni Nakshatram, no
  • Mouna Raagam, Chennai and Delhi
  • Bombay - duh!
  • Thiruda Thiruda, probably not
  • Iruvar, probably not
  • Uyire, somewhere in North India, maybe along the border, seems like the only doubtful choice
  • Alaipayuthey, no, don't think so
  • Ayutha Ezhuthu, no
Kannathil Muthamittaal, then, seems like the only movie which has been set outside India, and that too, because the story warrants it - it is the tale of an adopted child, whose biological mother fights for the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Even this movie could have been shot in some Lanka-like region in Tamil Nadu or Kerala. In none of the movies listed above could we think of even a song which was shot "in phoren". Mani is one of India's best directors and yet the above statistic! Very, very surprising!

If you know anything to the contrary, dear reader, please let me know - I would be glad to stand corrected.

P.S.: The list above does not consider movies produced by Mani. I think the Rayile rayile song in Five Star was shot in Europe.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Girlfriend Maintenance Allowance

(a fictitious glance at burning election issues in future elections)

Chennai, c. 2011 AD - In a bid to garner the attention of the youth of the State, the main opposition party has announced, as part of its election manifesto, a new allowance called GilMA - Girlfriend Maintenance Allowance. When asked, party sources informed this reporter that the people of this state who were given land, food, clothing and entertainment for free, are now clamouring for new and improved freebies.

It has come to light that whenever a boy and a girl go out on a date, it is the poor guy who has to spend a fortune on his lass. This imbalance has resulted in a statewide protest by the youth to bring down prices of cinema tickets, gift articles and designer apparel. An appalled government has been at pains to set right the situation in the state.

In an exclusive interview the leader of Opposition in the Assembly argues that if the Opposition is voted to power, they will dole out Rs. 2000 every month as an allowance to every committed male in the State. This money is exempt from taxes. The leader of the Opposition also enlightens us by putting forth the theory that such an allowance would add to the spending power of the youth of State, thus spurring economic growth in the State.

This new TV ad is the craze of the state.

Cut - three or four guys in some college campus. One person ventures "Dey, namma mattum thaan kaasu selavu pannanuma? Indha ponnunga purse-i veliya edukka maattaangala? Namakku eppoda vidivu kaalam varum?" ("Why should only boys spend on girls? Will they never take out their purses? When will this situation change?") - cut - "Enga katchikku vote podunga. Maasam 2000 rupaai vaangikkunga. Jolly-a enjoy pannunga!" ("Vote for our party. Get 2000 rupees per month. Enjoy!")

Arguably, the ruling party is baffled by this new election assurance by the Opposition. Not wanting to be left behind, it has just now come up with a better scheme. It has announced an allowance Rs 25,000 per year for all males between the ages of 18 and 30 in the state, irrespective of whether they have girlfriends or not. Also, there is a rumour that the Government is considering an additional allowance of Rs 25,000 per extra girlfriend, upto a maximum of 3! Sources close to the ruling party reveal that a special scheme, targeting single-and-looking males called GAG - Get A Girlfriend - is also on the cards.

The $1 salary!

No, there is no billion or million after the 1; and no, this is no prank. In this age of skyrocketing salaries and ever-bulging paypackets, some American CEOs are actually taking home a solitary dollar for their year's toils. Chris Gaither of the LA Times opines that the one-dollar salary is America's latest status symbol.

As companies file their annual reports - disclosing how much they pay their head honchos and inevitably ignite outrage about exorbitant executive salaries - consider Google.

Every two weeks, the three billionaires who run the Internet search giant get a paycheck for about 4 cents. Before taxes.
That's true. Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt take home a whopping one dollar. And they are not alone. Steve Jobs (Apple), Rich Kinder (Kinder Morgan), Jeff Katzenberg and Roger Enrico (DreamWorks) and Jerrold Perenchio (Univision) are also part of this elite club.

The company cuts Kinder a single check for 93 cents, after taxes, at the beginning of each year. Kinder owns stock worth more than $2 billion, and his 24 million shares will generate $84 million in dividends this year.

But he cashes the check.

"Rich works hard for that dollar," Kinder Morgan spokesman Rick Rainey said. "We expect him to spend it."

So the next time you think of searching for a new job because the pay isn't alright, think of the Google guys - they must be knowing a thing or two about searching.