Cerebral Shangrila

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

India Rising

NewsWeek's cover story is on India. Titled " India Rising" , it takes a in-depth look at what has been transforming the nation. Its an excellent article and a must read for Indophiles.

There is also an article on India & Outsourcing titled " Silicon Valley East".

Monday, February 27, 2006

Manjunath Shanmugam Trust

Hope the nation hasn't forgotten Manju as yet. A few IIM Alumni have created the Manjunath Shanmugham Trust to uphold the values that he stood for. Among the objectives are :

a. To establish and maintain an award for any person or persons or institution who are working to uphold the values of truth and honesty in the Indian corporate, government or public matters, in the face of danger to themselves.

b. To provide aid to any person or persons or institutions that are fighting a legal battle in the interest of upholding the values of truth, honesty or justice in the Indian corporate, government or public matters. Such legal case may be civil or criminal cases.Aid may include legal fees, media costs, travel and related costs.

c. To benchmark India to global standards of governance, and fund or otherwise aid actions, which address damages, caused to India by corrupt practices.

Spread the word around.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Black Tuesday -- The Jessica Lall Verdict

Its time to introspect ourselves. We have all failed as human beings. We might blame that the legal system is flawed. The accused were rich. And as in movies, the rich get away scot free. Its tough to believe that a young woman who was shot dead in front of 400 people in one of "Page 3" restaurants could not find justice. Mind you - 400 people.All rich,educated and supposedly rational people. Its not the damn system that is flawed , it is us.

Suhel Seth writes an scathing opinion piece in the express titled" The cowards we worship" . HT readers want a "rang de Basanti" style justice, Rediff readers call it " law is the mistress of the rich". But none of us can answer the tears of Jessica Lall's father because we have all failed ourselves.

P.S : Jessica Lall, a model, was shot dead seven years ago in a restaurant owned by a prominent socialite for refusing to serve alchohol at a restaurant ( It was after drinking hours) . Everyone thought it was a open and shut case. But last Tuesday the Court acquitted all the accused for lack of evidence.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

PlanetRead - A small change for colossal gains in Literacy

Here is another innovative approach to solve India's illiteracy problem. Adopting the popular " Same language Subtitling" , Planetread hopes to educate early literate ( read it as semi-literate or rudimentary literate) people by having sub-titles in the same language on popular film songs.

NYT (The New York Times) calls it as " One of development marketplace's most effective idea" . Here is the website where you can see how it works ( Catch the lagaan song with sub-titles). PlanetRead is the venture of Brij Kothari ( An associate Prof at IIM-A) and his team. Among the partners of PlanetRead are Google.org, IIM-A,Doordarshan,Ministry of HRD - India.

After a long five year struggle, they have finally managed to convince DD to sub-title the following programs ( Chitrahaar & Rangoli - Hindi , Oliyum Oliyum - Tamil , Chitramanjari - Kannada, and the weekly movies in Bengali,Telugu, Kannada). More are likely to follow.

With a very minimal cost structure ( $1 to educate 10,000 people in a year) , this initiative is winning awards and raves everywhere. May such noble initiatives thrive !

P.S : Please visit the website PlanetRead (Click on underlined word) to know more about the initiative and explore some of the interesting stuff they have been doing !

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Laugh riot back on small screen

I have seen this program a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it . Its a blessing amidst rest of the sob "mega-serials" and scheming villains / villis. Good to note that its back ! I am talking about the " Great Indian Laughter Challenge".

They have some great hosts in Shekhar Suman & "one-liner" Sidhu. I am glad its also spawning some good stand-up & film comedians .

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The revenge of a genius

Almost 60 years ago, this young lad was expelled from a college in Ludhiana for writing a poem in praise of a female student. Now decades later the same college has named its main auditorium after him. Is this what they call the revenge of a genius ?

But he is no more. He doesn't care about it. He is long dead. But his songs still alight a fire and make hearts flutter everyday. He was a magician of words , which is why probably he took the pen name - Sahir ( which means magician).

P.S : Sahir Ludhianvi was one of the most celebrated hindi lyricists of the bygone era who wrote unforgettable gems for films such as Kabhie Kabhie, Pyaasa, Hum Dono, Phir Subah Hogi, Taj Mahal .

I recently read this piece of his poetry ( in Urdu with English translation) :

Tumse Quwwat Lekar, Main Tumko Raah Dikhaoonga
Tum Parcham Lehrana Saathi, Main Barbat par Gaoonga.
Aaj se Mere Phan ka Maksad Zanjeere Pighlana Hai
Aaj se Main Shabnam ke Badle Angaare Barsaoonga.

(Drawing from your strength, I shall show you the way
You wave the flag, comrades, I shall sing for you
My art will now melt your chains
From now on my poetry will rain embers)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Last Chance to see by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine -- Book review

They say "comedy is serious business" . Most writers would agree to that. Writing humor is a very difficult business ( Though certain gentlemen like P.G.Wodehouse & Crazy Mohan would disagree !) . Try telling that to Douglas Adams. He would guffaw.

Humor on a serious topic is all the more difficult. But Adams has mastered that difficult art. The "Last chance to see" is a book on some rare wildlife ( severly endangered species) that Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine ( BBC Zoologist) visit in some of the most exotic locations around the world. The strength of Adams' is in lacing humor on such a serious topic as wildlife conservation. Some of the amazing animals that they visit include the dangerous Komodo Dragon in Indonesian jungle, silverback gorilla in Zaire, White Rhinos in Africa, Kakapo (The only flightless parrot in the world) in New Zealand, Baiji Dolphin in the Yangtze River in China, fruit eating bats in Mauritius.

The book drips with humor in every word and Adams' satire on the vagaries and selfishness of mankind is hard to ignore.

Sample this :

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.

If you are either a nature lover or like wonderful humor, beg/borrow/steal and read this book. I just wish Adams had written more about Wildlife ( He died at a young age of 49 , a few years ago). This book is funny,moving and thought-provoking.

P.S : Douglas Adams' most famous book is the " Hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy" , another must read.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

India embarks on e-travel

For a country with immense tourist potential ( cribbers forget international tourists, we have a huge domestic potential) , India hardly has good online travel sites. US was a paradise that way with Expedia & Travelocity.

But all that is going to change now. With VC money pouring into the country, some good e-travel sites are on the cards. Red Herring carries an article on India's upcoming e-travel sites. Watch out for these websites in the near future - Yatra , Cleartrip , Travelguru ( An HBS idea which is already functional). This is great news for travel freaks like me !

Friday, February 17, 2006

Polar bears -- Will we see them 50 years from now ?

The Polar bears are being considered for the US Endangered species list.

National geographic reports that , " The Bush Administration yesterday kicked off a process to determine whether polar bears should be added to the United States endangered species list because their habitat is melting. The action is "a significant acknowledgement of what global warming is doing to the Arctic ice," said Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in Joshua Tree, California.

In December the conservation group, along with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the U.S. government to protect the world's polar bears from extinction.

According to the conservationists, Earth's steadily rising temperature is causing the polar bear's habitat to melt. Many scientists say the warming is due, in part, to human activities such as driving cars and burning coal, which release heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

Environmental groups often criticize the Bush Administration for ignoring scientific evidence of global climate change."

With a Oil loving prez and a Quail shooting VP ( Who instead shoots a lawyer) , its tough days ahead for the bears.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

RSA Conference Theme

RSA Conference is an annual high-profile conference on the Information Security Industry (RSA is a leading encryption firm) . The Sponsors of this event include leading IT firms such as Microsoft,Cisco,Symantec,Sun etc and some of the leading speakers this year are Bill Gates, Scott Mcnealy, John Chambers, FBI Director (It is held currently in the Bay Area between Feb 13-17).

I was surprised to see a India based theme on the official website (The Taj picture was quite prominent). When I dug further, I discovered that this year's theme is centered on vedic mathematics ( RSA believes that ancient vedic mathematics is the foundation of encryption and security today !).

Here is what they say " Every year, the RSA Conference is built around a different historical theme which highlights a significant use, or misuse, of information security. In 2006, the theme is centered on ancient Vedic mathematics, and a mathematical Sage named Aryabhatta.

Modern Codes in Ancient Sutras

In 499 CE, in Kusumpura, capital of the Gupta Empire in classical India, a young mathematician named Aryabhatta published an astronomical treatise written in 118 Sanskrit verses. A student of the Vedic mathematics tradition that had slowly emerged in India between 1500 and 900 BC, Aryabhatta, only 23, intended merely to give a summary of Vedic mathematics up to his time. But his slender volume, the Aaryabhat.iiya, was to become one of the most brilliant achievements in the history of mathematics, with far-ranging implications in the East and West.

Aryabhatta correctly determined the axial rotation of the earth. He inferred that planetary orbits were elliptical, and provided a valid explanation of solar and lunar eclipses. His theory of the relativity of motion predated Einstein’s by 1400 years. And his studies in algebra and trigonometry, which laid the foundations for calculus, influenced European mathematicians 1,000 years later, when his texts were translated into European languages from 8th century Arabic translations of the Sanskrit originals.

Today, the work of information security professionals affects the global business community in ways as profound and far-reaching as the seminal calculations of Aryabhatta. Join us at the RSA Conference 2006 to celebrate the mathematical achievements of ancient India, and discover unprecedented approaches to securing your business and applications."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rediff completes 10 years

Rediff.com completed 10 years last week. Its almost part of every day life , having been a regular reader and daily visitor to the site for the past 8+ years. Wishing it a long life !

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

NASSCOM Leadership Awards

Nasscom does some good PR and brand building exercise. It announed the annual Global leadership awards. Among the winners are luminaries like Meg Whitman (eBay), Pramod Haque (VC) , Thomas Friedman ( NYT Columnist) .

Sunday, February 12, 2006

AI Express to fly to Singapore,KL from Chennai

BS reports, " Air-India Express, national flag carrier Air-India’s low-cost carrier, is planning to start two new non-stop services to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore from Chennai by March-end. Both the services will be six flights a week.These no-frills and low-fare flights will be launched after taking the delivery of four Boeing 747-800 aircraft. "

Saturday, February 11, 2006

SIFAS - Festival of Indian Classical Music & Dance 2006

SIFAS is yet again organising the Indian Classic festival in Singapore. The Festival would be from Feb 25 - Mar 12 and the concerts would be at SIFAS auditorium (Near Mustafa) and at Esplanade.

Among the big names this year are Pt.Vishwa Mohan Bhat,Ustad Rashid Khan,Dr. N.Ramani,Bombay Jayashri,Alarmel Valli . There are three interesting Jugalbandhis - SURDHWANI - A Musical Confluence Hindustani Vocal and Sitar Jugalbandhi ( By Ustad Rashid Khan & Ustad Shahid Parvez) ,SANGAMAM - In Unison Flute & Mohana Veena - Jugalbandhi by (Dr N Ramani & Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt) , SAMANVAYA - A Coming Together A Bharatanatyam Dance and Odissi Jugalbandhi ( By Alarmel Valli & Madhavi Mudgal).

I am already marking my calendar for some wonderful musical treat ! For the complete iternary , visit this URL .

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Paulo Coelho - Walk the talk

Paulo Coelho is an amazing man by any standards. I first heard about him when the book " The alchemist" was highly recommended to me by my friends ( Its another interesting fact that I had written "The alchemist" as a book that I want to read in a blogpost and a friend of mine after reading that blogpost gifted it to me when I made my trip to India in '05).

The alchemist was a cult book which was deeply philosophical and mystical. But somehow I found the book to be a bit too over-rated ( It was my opinion then but that could also have been due to the fact that it was a translated book). But now after reading Coelho's interview on NDTV's Walk the Talk , I am amazed at this man.

Paulo Coelho was sent to asylum by his parents when he was a teenager and later also spent time in detention by paramilitary where he suffered electric shocks. From there to one of the most celebrated writers of today is one heck of a journey ! He also talks about his love of Indian culture ( One of his poems was titled "Gita" and was based on Bhagvath Gita and sold more than 5 million copies in Brazil !) . Amazing man.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I came. I saw. I was Conquered.

Last week seems like a dream. Right out of a Shakespearean drama. I made the biggest decision in my life - to get married.So finally the most ineligible bachelor (Isn't it better to be self-deprecating than let others have that pleasure) on the planet is clean bowled.

I saw the girl on Monday , talked to her on tuesday and got engaged on Friday and left India on Sunday ( Looks like that "Solomon Grundy" rhyme I learnt in Kindergarden). The girl is also an MBA and works for one of the MNC Banks in Chennai,India.

Its going to be a tumultous and exciting ride and I shall look forward to it. She is a wonderful girl. I know that I need to make a lot of changes ( Be more social,communicative .........the list goes on .....) .

Suddenly there is more to life than books and music .