Thursday, December 30, 2010

Negative Me

People say I am negative to the hilt. I see a conspiracy in everything. Somebody told me that there are people who are genuinely good. But to me that would not be possible as I would see some sinister designs, ulterior motives.



I am critical to an extreme. I have something to complain about everyone and everything my friends would tell me. If I complain to a friend that he should not throw open air parties on a winter evening, he would remind me that I am on my usual negative spree.



Pleasantries is what they says is conspicuous in absence in my conversation. They feel that my free and candid assessment of things make me critical. My constructive criticism is a negative outburst to them. And I am habitual of saying my mind, though I take care to put it in mild words. The idea is to inform people of what amiss would happen if course correction is not done, and suggest some measures for course correction. The idea is benevolent. But people take it otherwise.



This is a issue that is at the back of my mind. I am actually made to think about it by my friends. When more than half a dozen people tell you have a negative disposition, you cannot ignore it. So I batted for me on this issue. I resisted the idea of being negative. But then why do I come across to people as a negative?



The reason for it came as a flash in one nook of my brain. People don’t like to be told. And I take special joy in telling people things. The idea is to help them. They might not take it in the same spirit.



Is not looking to target inadequacies a way to progress or to succeed? It is. But people don’t like to be told the reason they failed. They would be far more receptive if you tell them what they can do to succeed.
Negative me


The fact that I seem to know fairly effortlessly what is wrong with others has not helped me much. Because the course correction I suggest to others is what I need to implement the most. I am in a fix. And I see me in everyone who is in a fix. And thus strive to fix the fix.



I need to fix me. If I fix me; I will not see the need to fix others. And therefore would lower my negativity coefficient.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Radiagate

Radialeaks is a conspiracy to malign very powerful, select individuals in the corporate sector and in the government. The worst sufferers are Ratan Tata and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; A Raja is a convenient scapegoat. Keep this in mind, the people behind these selective leaks are equally important and powerful.

In an unprecedented move the finance ministry under P Chidambaram taps Niira Radia’s phones after a complaint against her is received that she is a spy, or ‘an agent of foreign intelligence agencies’ and therefore is involved in anti national activities. That is a very serious charge. The Income Tax department should not have been investigating a serious matter like this, instead some highly specialised and equipped agency like IB, ED, CBI or RAW should be dealing with it. But this serious charge comes across as a lame excuse. The finance ministry has a lot of explaining to do. Assuming she is a foreign intelligence agent, which intelligence agency are we talking about? Which specific anti-national activity did she indulge in? Also if she is involved in anti national activities, so are her partners who she works closely with and are the top corporate guys, greedy bureaucrats and politicians looking to make easy money.

The fact of the matter is that Finance ministry under Chidambaram target her and it is alleged that home ministry under him could be behind the selective leak.

On the business front, the leaked tape hit at Ratan Tata. The message is clear. Niira Radia, a Tata’s PR consultant, was trying to influence policy decisions in the favour of her clients. Though the tapes are not just confined to telecom sector. It talks in detail about civil aviation and the institutionalised bungling in this sector of the tune of thousands of crores. It talks about Mukesh Ambani’s (also her client) gas project. And host of other issues. It shows how vulnerable is government to corporate influences, much of which is not legitimate. And the level playing field is a farce, as these behind the closed door lobbying decide the fate of many of the money-loaded projects.

What is clear now is that former telecom minister A Raja issued licenses for some extraneous considerations and not entirely on merit, but nothing more then this is established as yet, not even the exchange of money taking place. But these revelations have put the new licenses in the dock. This will benefit the old players, or the incumbents, like Idea, Vodafone, Airtel. What Raja did, by default, by issuing some 120 new licenses, is that he liberalised the telecom sector. This ensured that the call rates crashed; mobile phones became more and more affordable to the poor and the network extended to rural India. The oligopoly of the incumbents was broken and they were for the first time facing the levelling forces of competition. This is a unique scam in the sense that it has benefited the common man. And these leaked tapes could scuttle the competitive environment in telecom sector by potentially cancelling all new licenses so that the incumbents will start making super normal profits again. Is that the idea behind these leaks? (an idea can change a whole sector).

This whole conspiracy, not just a controversy, has put a question mark on the effectiveness and leadership of Prime Minister Manmhan Singh. Ironically, he has many times being referred as the cleanest prime minister. And weakest too. We have a parliamentary form of democracy where the cabinet is collectively (not individually) responsible to the parliament and through it to the people at large. So, it is untenable to have a clean prime minister in a cabinet where the ministers are waist deep in the muck of corruption. A Raja resigning might not help. We know that prime minister was well aware of what Raja was up to. He failed to stop Raja. So the prime minister is under pressure too for allowing Raja commit 2G scam, the opposition stalling the whole winter session of the parliament on this issue creats more problem for the prime minister.

But I see a trap here. The trap is to pressurise the prime minister to resign. And if Congress grapevine is to be believed, since 40 years old Rahul baba is still not ready, somebody else might get to be the ceremonial prime minister. Chidambaram is one of the top contenders, so is the finance minister, Congress's chief trouble-shooter, Pranab Mukerjee and defence minister AK Anthony. Both the home ministry and the finance ministry have expressed their helplessness to stop the leak, but this does not bother them much. However, both the ministries have clarified that they have not leaked the tapes. Somebody has, one of them could be lying? There seems to be a larger conspiracy to force an emotional prime minister to tender resignation in light of corruption charges so that some other non-Gandhi will get to man the top job.

The truth might never come out. In the meantime, CBI will continue raiding the homes and offices of dispensable politicians and bureaucrats to fish out evidences after giving them good 13 months of time to get rid of them.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Information

Wikileakes and Radiagates: unbridled dissemination of information is so difficult to handle.

There should be no doubt that people have right to privacy. Nobody has the right or reason to know what happens between two or more adults behind closed doors. No body should have access to their private talks.

This brings us to the next question: Is the right to privacy absolute? Or let’s pose this question differently. Criminals use privacy to hatch plots to cause larger harm to the society. Given that privacy can be used in a way that can lead to disastrous consequences-can the denizens of the society be assured of absolute privacy? If it could be controlled, would US ever allow Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda operatives privacy?

I am being judgemental when I say we all lead a dualistic life: one for the public consumption and, perhaps, more than one private lives. An expose or a sting operation therefore affects most the person it talks about. It breaks the sham of dualistic life, selective dissemination of information to create a certain false image. It is like the exposed is stripped bare in the middle of a crowded street. He has no place to hide, nowhere to go. It is worst that can happen to someone. I would therefore not do it for reasons that are described by the word: frivolous. I would exercise utmost responsibility and restraint, would do it for larger public interest. And there is no thin line here but a clear demarcation between what constitutes private chit-chat and what forms a negotiations that spells the contours of criminality, misuse of official position of a custodian for personal gains. There is never confusion. But there is always a temptation to sensationalise things.

In Niira Radia tapes, I am not so bothered about the tone and tenor of the telephonic conversations that sound very informal…bordering private. I am rather amazed at what is being discussed and by whom. The richie rich and the biggie big doing what we expect them to do, use money power to bend rules. But it was good to hear it, the vague ideas concretised when exposed to the real drill. I am reminded of a proverb in Hindi: naam bare aur darshan chote (big names and small deeds). There is no criminality as no law has been broken. Perhaps recorded conversation is not even admissible in the court as evidence. But since it was official, sanctioned tapping of phone; and no one has really denied to these telephonic conversations, it is a potent embarrassment. It will cause many heads to roll, especially in the media fraternity.

In US-the harbinger of free society-is much more hassled by the Wikileaks. The government has employed all the means possible, most of them unethical and undemocratic to plug the Wikileaks. But the Wikileaks has a thousand holes and it might not be possible to plug all of them before it spreads sufficiently to cause the damage. It makes us aware of what we already know-American highhandedness and selfishness. It is also indicative of frustration in the American establishment that they are slowly but decisively losing their dominance on the world. A change that is inevitable to create a new world order.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Goa

Last month I travelled to Goa to report on its underbelly. It was a cover story for India Today. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/118228/Cover%20Story/goa-sex-&-mafia-on-cocaine-coast.html

Certain people, mostly foreigners (Russian, Israelis, Nigerians and British) have made it into a global destination for fun and frolic. They do not mind breaking the law. And they do not have to worry about breaking the law. As the law enforcer do not have any objection. In fact the tourism department is worried that they are losing junkie backpackers, who form a substantial part of the long-term tourist in Goa, to Thailand. Some of them find Thailand more exciting then Goa; and less cumbersome.

The Russian mafia is spreading its tentacles on tourism economy of Goa. The way they are doing it has an uncanny resemblance with how Japanese mafia Yakuza-one of the largest organized crime phenomena in the world- dominated illicit drug, prostitution and gambling syndicates principally in Hawaii, also in California, Nevada and even New York in the early eighties.

Yakuza did not disturb the normal life of the locals to carry out their multifaceted illegal activities of corporate extortion, gambling, smuggling, money laundering, narcotics, real estate, tourist scams, sex tours, prostitution and pornography that go hand in hand. They would dress oddly, with distinctive haircuts, intricate tattoos on their torsos as a mark of strength and assertion of non-compliance to any rules or social norms. They are aggressive by temperament. The cultural differences and the language barrier is a hindrance, but they manage to operate as a syndicate businesses with locals. They create extensive network of bars, restaurants and nightclubs by investing in high-priced real estate; even forge documents, bribe officials to do that.

Russian Mafia in Goa to me appeared to be an offshoot of Bratva (slang for 'brotherhood')-the numerous Russian mafias gangs that sprung which rose from the ashes of communism in the early 1990s. They operate behind a cover business like cyber café, boutiques, run yoga classes, restaurant, bakery, some of them serve ‘hash cakes and pastries’ only to white tourists. They are into real estate acquisitions, agriculture lands is diverted to create tourism infrastructure much of it is owned by foreign nationals. After creating a base, they protect their core group from legal action by using all possible means: threats, bribery, even murders. In all this they prefer to be background operators with their Goan partners as the face of the business.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trip to Varanasi and Azamgarh

Varanasi is an age-old town with narrow criss-crossing lanes that intersect, very much like the town's complex social fabric, with various faiths. The ancient town is now full of youngsters who have aspirations beyond religious dogma. With the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, the culture of the Ganga-Yamuna plain, holding sway, the town's residents have not been prevented from working closely despite the awareness of each other's difference in faith.


Though Muslim youth feel strongly about the Ayodhya title verdict, they thankfully do not blame Hindus for it. They blame the judiciary instead, for what they see as giving in to appeasing the majority Hindus.
The best part of my trip was to visit the house of shehnai maestro and Bharat Ratna awardee, the late Ustad Bismillah Khan, in Benia Bagh which is not very far from the Kashi Vishwanath temple that shares a common wall with the Gyanvapi mosque. The place had a positive vibe, the light flooding in from the open door filled the room, and the walls cluttered with pictures of presidents and prime ministers with the shehnai maestro.
The most interesting of these is a collage of photographs with Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray, "Khan Sahib was the only Muslim Balasaheb honoured by touching his feet," says Mehtab Khan, the late maestro's son. He sat with his legs folded on a rickety sofa talking about his father like revering a sage, addressing him as Khan Sahib. On the small wall of the room, four square frames of the same size are lined tightly next to each other, each of them carrying Government of India seals embossed in gold.  These are the four top civilian honours bestowed on Khan Sahib by the Central government over a span of 50 years.

The first frame on the extreme left carries the Padma Shri citation conferred on him by India's first President Dr Rajendra Prasad. The one on the extreme right shows the citation of India's top civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, conferred on him by then President K.R. Narayanan, the honour has been conferred to only three non-political figures since Independence.

Mehtab Khan resists being drawn into talking about the Ayodhya verdict, but as an afterthought he says, "Allah blessed the three judges; because they came out with an artful verdict that effectively prevented communal bloodshed."  He had a profound message to move on and not get stranded in an age-old dispute that has only caused mistrust and ill will.

40 years old sociologist Dr Mahfooz Alam, has a saree factory with 30 workers, 20 of them Hindu, is worried. This verdict is a symbol of cheat against the Muslim community, he feels. The Muslims are not able to ‘digest’ it. The whole of Varanasi went into a shell when the verdict was announced, there was a kind of self imposed social curfew. Alam describes that lanes of Varanasi engulfed into pin drop silence. The silence was ominious.

Fact of the matter is that people are too poor to fight it out; earn their livelihood on a daily basis, thousands of workers cycle daily to reach work place in Varanasi from adjoining areas. Alam explains that Varanasi is the focal point economic life of the whole puruvachal region, if anything goes wrong here the whole region suffers.Nobody wants any dispruption.

There is a three-months long period of uncertaintyand anxiety, that is the time the concerned parties have to decide whether they want to go to Supreme Court or work out an out-of-the-court settlement.

Azamgarh
Azamgarh has not seen development initiatives the rest of India has taken for granted, like flyovers and residential colonies. It has remained stuck in a colonial age set-up and is a dusty, dense town with crammed lanes crisscrossing each other randomly, lined by tall houses staring at each other. Its looks defy the city's reputation as the hotbed of homegrown terror. Western Union outlets jot every nook and corner of the city, like the STD/ISD booths in the pre-cellphone era. This points to a huge influx of expat money that gets sucked into activities that are not so apparent.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that college-going boys here are looking beyond Islam as they aspire for a fruitful career as computer engineer, doctor or a lawyer. Boys move around in jeans and t-shirt but college girls, mostly burkha-clad, move about in a group of four-five. But in rural areas, the youth are still focused on their religious identity. With religious fervour, they believe that Hindus have wronged Muslims at every opportunity.
There are many conspiracy theories doing the rounds in rural Azamgarh, particularly in Saraimeer (the village of underworld don Abu Salem, the accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case) and Sanjarpur (the village of Atif and Sajjad, the alleged terrorists who were gunned down in the Batla House encounter two years ago in Delhi). The problem is that Muslim youth here treat them as unmitigated truth. According to one such conspiracy theory, the Archaeological Survey of India lied to the court that there was a temple before the Babri Masjid. The other conspiracy theory is that the verdict was to be in their favour and was changed at the eleventh hour in favour of Hindus. This was done at the behest of the Intelligence Bureau which feared communal bloodshed, this theory says, adding that this is why the verdict had to be postponed twice before it was made public on September 30.
When one asks them if it is possible to redo 5,000 pages of the judgement on such a complex issue in just a week or that lawyers representing the Muslims were not well prepared or that they failed to present a compelling, cogent case for Muslims, the Azamgarh youth stop a while to ponder. But they resist this line of thought and instead pass the buck onto someone else.

Muslim youth in rural Azamgarh assert in different ways that the Indian State and, now, the judiciary have shown that they are not secular. This is serious because it indicates the complete erosion of trust in the judiciary and the government when it comes to religious issues vis-à-vis Hindus. They are also acutely aware that high profile political parties and their leaders want to use their resentment to build their vote bank. There have been periodic visits by the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Digvijay Singh.
The judgement may have succeeded in preventing violence but the calm is not peace. Because with every passing day, the perceived injustice done to Muslims by this verdict has made each one of them seethe with anger. But the fact that the appeal in the Supreme Court still lies ahead, and the hope that the apex court would deal with facts and not the myths, has given them something to look forward to. This issue is vexed and close to the hearts of Muslims and Hindus that one gets the feeling that a lasting solution should be worked out of court. And this verdict has given some basis and a broad formula for a negotiated settlement.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

INCEPTION

Finally, I watched INCEPTION last night, last show.

I was rather blank when I left the theatre, the perplexity of the whole movie had overtaken me, I was uncomfortable in a way, walking down the stairs I could feel some occult qualities to the mundane surroundings.

I was wondering reality can be so confusing, that dreams become reality. Reality, like dream, might just be a perception with physical laws in place.

In the world of dreams, or the subconscious mind, where you are the creator, God, one plays a game, where the broad nature’s law that silently govern us are rather blatantly flouted, is here that one is thrown into a limbo- in a dimensionless space.
Here the mandate was to use your mind as a scene of crime. I have better options.

But death seem to be the only limitation. Where death in the dreams would mean that one would wake up to reality. Interesting. Does death throws us open to another reality… that is a more real reality....it seems to be a vicious cycle and scary too at some level. So I better keep my subconscious mind to sleep so that I do not dream to manipulate reality.

All said and done a great movie after a long time.

Full credit to Christopher Nolan, a very successful Englishman in Hollywood, has made it big with likes of The Dark Knight and many more such movies where his fascination with the unexplored horizons of mind comes out clearly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Food is Bliss

The Delhi khana (or the Delhi foodie) group is a great stress buster for me, a break from the mundane existence. Though, the group’s commitment to a particular nature of food was absolute…non-elite joints for the masses that serve non-vegetarian food, with the flavour of a unique culture….that does not come easy: it is either due to years of doing…or is a legacy passed on and kept alive by generations by practice. Here food defies logic.

Lately, there have been intruders who are vegetarians, and they have effectively changed the mandate of the group, or I would say, expanded the mandate of the group, have shown the gang that all that is true for meat can equally be true for grass. Crass is what some of us may think of this. But they have a point.

I would put it like this: the greatest gift God has bestowed to humanity is taste buds [Bitter tastes are mostly sensed towards the back and rear sides of the tongue while salty and sweet tastes are mostly tasted at the tip and sour tastes are mostly tasted at the sides of the tongue, at the middle and towards the front]. The greatest feast of the humanity has been to pamper these taste buds in so many significant and magnificent ways, unique across communities, regions and nations. It is the combined effect of bitter, sweet and sour taste buds when they act in tandem, when they send certain scrumptious signals to the brain, is when indulgence, gluttony, hogging seem virtue, even in retrospect. It is then you realise the indulgence can be divine, and lust can lead to deliverance. It would be greatest shame if taste buds don’t get pampered in their life time a thousand times at least; if they don’t get exposed enough to the (one of the) greatest sensations that are carnal, and spiritual at the same time.

Cooking is an art of living that all must practice; source of great joy that all must share. Who is inviting me? When is the next outing?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

CBI is pet dog in the hands of the government that really bites

CBI is pet dog in the hands of the government that really bites to harass political adversaries. But now it is being used in such a blatant way,unprecedented, that it is become an extension of the party in power. Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, Narendra Modi, Lalu Prasad Yadav…the list is long…they all would vouch for the fact. Courts have pulled up CBI for that.

There is no denying the fact that CBI is getting very undemocratic…..extra constructional bully in the hands of the government that is sold to the party line; weak prime minister with small political stature only helps.

And when it comes to real investigations, like the murder mystery of Aarushi killing, they have been a dismal failure, it has been two years and the clock is ticking. Aarushi murderers can rest in peace....not her soul.

Sad. And disgusting.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TIGER

Tigers are fighting toughest battle against extinction in India. And worst they are being killed to fuel organized illegal trade in their parts that has a thriving market in China. I did a cover on how tigers are killed by paid mercenaries, who belong to hunting tribes, to keep the supply chain running.

link:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/99256/Cover%20Story/tracking-the-tiger-killers.html

Food For Thought

Recently I did a story for India Today, where i work, titled: Food for Thought.

The story is about harnessing nature's technology that is developed by farmers for ages by a process called artificial selection, and passed on for generation as a revered heritage (i call it living knowledge). It offers a complete, and varied solution, to the greatest problem that confonts humanity: food security in light of the stange climatic disturbaces that are triggered by global warming(perhaps).

Here is the link: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/104799/food-for-thought.html?page=2