Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Diwali..!

Wishing All a Happy and Prosperous Diwali ( Deepavali )...!!


Friday, October 24, 2008

Let There Be Light...!!

Diwali is here.. and like every time its a joyous moment of celebration and festivities. Not just in India but also in lots of other countries, where Indians are in abundance...! So as usual it involves a lot of celebrations, shopping, traditional stuffs... and the dreaded crackers. I am not a big fan of crackers, as anyone who knows me for more than 2 years would be able to guess why. The reasons are many, but the solution is in fact very simple. Don't burst crackers...!  One of the reasons is the pollution it causes. The other reason being the alleged use of child labour to manufacture them. And of course the fact that they are highly irresponsible objects to have fun with.

For the first reason, well, i suppose everyone knows the smoke and and noise that they produce. They hardly think of the long term consequences of them. We are actually contributing to Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide as well as other harmful gases, raising the levels considerably on the days of Diwali. They are in fact harming themselves as well as all others exposed to them. If not now, in a few years, the effects of these drastic inclusions to the environment will add up, to produce a larger impact on environment and health. As it is, we have so many harmful smoke emitting sources, do we need to contribute even more...??

And the noise produced is just plainly pointless...! Whats the fun in a big "BOOM"...? The sound for one scares every little bird, cat or dog in the vicinity and is an extremely cruel torture to them...! Why just the animals, even people are uncomfortable due to these sudden explosion and are good enough to give a heart attack to anyone who is not up to the mark..! Of course then there are direct immediate accidents that do happen every year..! People, especially children getting burnt, losing their eyes or even worse. Unfortunately, sometimes even those not involved in bursting them, get hurt too...!

And what about the trash that they leave behind..? Ever thought of cleaning them up..? Or just leave it to be swept into drains and gutters, or just let them to lie around and rot. Its not just enough to clean our up house. The streets need to be kept clean too... at least lets not make it even more dirtier..!! Looking at the streets the day after Diwali, reminds me what sort of an irresponsible and dirty creatures we all are...!

Coming to another issue, employing little children to manufacture the crackers, is both a crime and a sin. It does happen, no matter how much its being denied. Children are lot a cheaper, demand less and are very easily exploited. The children, half fed, exposed to chemicals have to work overtime to make ready the stocks for Diwali. They are robbed off their childhood, exposed to deadly risks, and their dreams squashed, just so that someone can experience the thrill of a few sparks and a loud pop. To us it may just be 500-1000 bucks and a cart load of fun, but to those poor kids, it was days of labour under a lot of suffering. Is it really worth it..?

I know, some of you might think, this provides them a source of livelihood, and by buying crackers you are actually helping them. ( Very lame argument actually ). But think, why do you have to go through so much trouble to help them? Why not directly spend the amount, that you wish to buy crackers for, on the poor and the needy..? Wont that give you real satisfaction of actually doing something meaningful and worthwhile..??

Crackers and bombs are not really part of tradition. Its supposed to be a festival of lights, prosperity and happiness. In fact Diwali means 'a row of lamps' in Sanskrit. I believe no where it was meant to be a "festival of random chaotic noise and explosion". So down the years this has become more and more commercial. Experts call this YAHCT syndrome or Yet Another Heavily Commercialized Tradition ( and not YATCH ). So its just a lucrative business time, like many other festival times. As long as its clothes or washing machine sales, i dont mind. But when it comes to selling things that are way too harmful to everyone, then its just plain selfish and irresponsible greed..!

There are laws of course, which supposedly enforce the norms for these things. But then these are just laws, meant to be broken and bent in India.

Here are a few more points that are of note...! Do take a look. Some laws, tests, harmful effects etc. I would have posted them here, but as it is this article has become way too big for anyone to read it...

                            http://www.indiatogether.org/environment/articles/diwali.htm

So celebrate Diwali in a more responsible, happier and cleaner way. Spread love and not pollution.

Wishing you a Prosperous, Clean and Pollution less Diwali.

Let There Be Light....!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mission to the Moon...!!

Well, it may have been quite a while since someone showed interest to visit our nearest celestial neighbor -  the Moon. So on 22 October, 6:20 AM IST mission Chandrayaan-I will be launching off to explore the moon's surface, untouched by an Indian Spacecraft ever. In fact its the first time an Indian spacecraft is going so far away form the Earth. Sending back a lot of knowledge about the the celestial body and hoping to break new grounds in planetary explorations. Also the knowledge acquired will be shared with the entire world.

The mission objectives as quoted by ISRO are to map the surface of the Moon and to conduct mineral analysis. As well as to deliver numerous ground support stations and facilities on the moon's surface. These are supposed to aid in future moon missions by making available a usable basic infrastructure. Many equipments going to be set up on the surface have been contributed by many space agencies across the globe. This is indeed a global initiative and all of them are eagerly awaiting for the success of this mission.

India's ISRO is one of the fore runners in space technology, and is doing good business in the space in commercial space programs. And this is just another feather in ISRO's cap...! The next step, i guess would be to send an Indian to moon or even further..!! Eagerly awaiting to see that day..!!

Well, space is the final frontier, and has been the stuff of fantasies for many many years. When it comes to space, aliens, inter-dimensional vortex etc etc, there is no such thing as over imagination..!! Anything and everything is OK as far as space goes..! Whether creepy eyed alien beings bidding to conquer us or space tele-portation and humongous space ships, nothing seems illogical..! That is because we know such little about it..! So lets bend it the way we want it..!Great fun..!!

Ever since man showed some sort of a logical capacity, from the birth of civilization thousands of years ago, he has been pondering about the space and its various objects. Yet till now we hardly know even a tiny percentage of it..!! And it will take probably many more for us to know even know what we are dealing with..! For now just let our imagination, computer games and Hollywood fuel our space conquest missions...!!

We were given one planet to live on - Earth, and we have ravaged and abused it to a great extent. And continually doing so, in spite of knowing the damage that we are causing...! I guess, upon occupying any other planet (if we are able to do so) we would be doing the same to it..! Slowly eliminating the local populace and populating the planet with more humans..! Well we certainly are capable of doing so...!

Anyway, all that is too far ahead...! As for now lets "conquer" the moon in the name of science and claim it on the behalf of entire humanity ( if it has not been already done so). Just hoping that the weather stays clear  during the launch...!!

Oh which reminds me, here is another mission objective..! Find out if the Americans really landed on then moon or was it all just a scam..?
For more information and technical stuff check out this link :
Please do check it out at least once...!



Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Big Red Couch Wars

Really funny things happen when you throw in big corporates, innovative ideas and a lot of competition. Like this whole ad war that started around the big red couch. Well, the story goes as follows.Airtel in a bid to spice up their launch of digital television service, started a series of teasers, without giving  a hint to what it was about. Just a red couch and the line "See you at home" was said by a cowboy, an African Zulu tribesman, a rock band , cartoons resembling Timon from the Lion King.... and many others. But no one had much of a clue as to what it was or which company it belonged to. Though probably someone could connect it to a television based product or home delivered pizzas. Anyway, the build up continued...

So Reliance's digital TV service - BIG TV - decided to crash in on Airtel's party by putting up their own promotional advertisement with the big red couch. To suggest as if the whole build up was for their BIG TV. How they came to know ofAirtel's plans or was it just a coincidence is still unsure. But the teaser was to suggest that it was something new that was being launched. BIG TV was already in the market for quite a while. Then why were they trying to "relaunch" it..?

Thus ambushing Airtel big time. And then they had to hurriedly launch their own advertisement, which had a lot of fan fare and celebrities in it and of course the red couch too.Airtel was soon crying fowl of BIG TV's tactics calling it unfair and unethical, and BIG came out with their own justifications. Anyway, I suppose now the red couch is not there in BIGTV's ads. Just the ads with the kung-fu moustache guy, the screaming fat lady and the sneezing soldier. As for Airtel, it airs the red couch ad, loaded with celebrities and is quite long too. But surely the debate spruced up the popularity of both the giants...!

Well, as for the red couch war, its over for now, but our sky will be fought over for more such digital TV signals and our roof tops crowded with more dishes, in the time to come. And soon more and more people will be confining themselves to big couches, preferring TV over their social life. Preferring Reality shows than reality itself. Preferring watching cartoons rather than playing. Preferring SUN TV ( Regional Tamil channel ) than sun light... etc etc. Ahem... You get the picture. Yes, the couch is definitely something to fight aggressively for, by these big companies. Each providing a whole array of choice to the viewer and a host of value added features. No matter who the winner is, the loser will always be the poor couch potato.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pits of Doom

It is indeed a very sad thing that apart from hunger, disease and natural disasters, there is another factor that kills children.... The scourge of the Open Bore wells.. ( eerie background music ) !!! Well.. a rather stupid reason for sure, but it does happen. Probably not in any other part of the world, but definitely in India. And is it too difficult to curb this children killing "menace"..?? Doesn't seem so. Definitely not difficult as fighting poverty or polio. Then why does it happen again and again and no one seems to care.
Sonu, a 2 year old boy, was almost buried alive in a 150 ft deep bore well in Agra, is just one of the victims in a long list of similar incidents. The 4 day rescue operation by the Army, only resulted in the recovery of his lifeless body. Well, after such a long time, no wonder he didn't make it through..! Imagining myself in his place is both scary and discomforting. And it wasn't the first time, but will it be the last...??
Well, the media was there covering every moment of it. Maybe some politician or official would have come to get their pictures taken with a "sympathetic" and "grief stricken" expression on their face. The army was doing its "best". But whats the use. Now the state will announce a compensation to the family or name the bore well aftersonu, or other such cheap gimmick. And just in case Sonu was rescued alive, the state would have sponsored his education, given him a bicycle or something like that and everyone would be very happy. After all its such occasions that give the politicians to show their "consideration" for the people.
But why can't people be more careful with the holes they dig. How difficult is it? I have seen even dogs fill in the holes that they dig. Anyway, apart from the those who dig these wells, its even the parents who are responsible, who leave their kids lying about here and there. Maybe they had their reasons, but its only they who will feel the grief for a very long time, while the rest will forget about it the next morning. So ultimately its the people, especially those with kids less than a foot wide (along any direction), who must be vigilant towards such dangers.
Or I suppose we need to set up a new department namely the - Rapid Borewell Rescue Squad - equipped with the latest technology to save young children from numerous menacing pits that dot the country. If we can't close the pits, lets at least get good at rescuing those who fall in them..!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why rumors are a bad thing....

By now every ram, arun and vijay ( Indian versions of Tom, Dick and Harry ) where ever he is, would be quite aware of the financial "situation" in the world. So what happens when a big financial institution crashes..?? People fear that other institutions will collapse as well. In a financial setup, set backs are common when something major like this happens. But are all fears justified...? Definitely not.. Sometimes they just make matter worse.

Like the rumor that a major Indian bank - ICICI - was doomed because they had invested in American banks. So what happened was that people began to rush to the banks and ATMs to withdraw their hard earned money..!! But the way a bank functions, its not possible to return everyone's money within a day..!!  NO bank can do that..!! Definitely not possible..! A bank doesn't keep all the money it collects from its customers, in their vaults. They circulate and invest it..! How else are they able to give you an interest on your deposits..? Money lying idle doesn't give "birth" to more money...! It has to be sent in circulation..!

So when all the people rushed to get their money out, the bank was in a tight fix. Apparentlly they had to sell some of their shares and get loans to give back the money to demanding customers. Inspite of several reassurances from the bank, that there was no reason to panic, that they had not invested overseas and that they had enough funds, the frantic crowds didnt listen. Even the RBI's increased release of liquidity and reassurances didnt solve the problem. The bank had to close down their ATMs and send back the customers. Hard hit by the rumors, their market value nose dived and they are no more the leading private bank in the country.

People need to be patient and give it some time, instead of making it worse. If there is a world wide financial problem, everyone will be hit, someway or the other. This way, is just aggravting the problem furthur. Plus, the regulatory bodies are quite well equipped to handle if at all there is any problem. A bank wont be allowed to go down with the people's money...!

Banks are built on trust and when it takes a beating, things go from bad to worse. No matter how big a bank is, a bad reputation or a rumor will bring it to its knees in days. So the moral of the story is, even if a bank is not collapsing, people will make it go bankrupt. And if it was indeed collapsing, people will make sure that that it falls down to the last rupee...!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Public Deception System

I don't really understand the ration card or the Public Distribution System (PDS). Quite simply, because we don't need the so called subsidized rations. By "we" i mean people who can afford to buy from air conditioned supermarkets, and have cards to swipe the bill. Yet due to some strange enlightenment in our political system, they deem it necessary for us to have it as a source of identification. Well that part is ok , but the trouble is we even need to get our rations regularly. Or else the card gets canceled, which implies you lose your identity. Even though we ( my father :P ) pay our taxes for the roads, lights, sanitation and not to forget the subsidized rations as well, without the ration card, the local administrative bodies and many other organizations don't accept you as a valid resident of the state. ( Used to need that for buying LPG Gas as well... thankfully that is not needed anymore )

Earlier, we didn't feel the need to have one, because we could afford the food at a regular retail price, and thought to let the poor enjoy the benefits of the subsidized rations. However, someone insisted  ( good that he did, or else it would have been really tough later on ) that a ration card is one of the most essential document that a person residing in Tamil Nadu can have. So the process started, and like in most other government offices, a middle-man was arranged to get the process done quicker. Apparently there was no option to deny the rations completely, and to just have the card as an identity proof. So the least that could be got was sugar..!! That too 4.5 Kg..! That actually was a bit to much for our family of three. We would hardly be able to consume half of it. So after a few months of running around, the card finally came. It was indeed a very "proud" moment...!! Finally, we had a proof of our residence in Chennai (13° 04' N , 80° 17' E), Tamil Nadu. ( Though the spelling of the street was wrong... there was no choice but to go with it...)

OK, so now there was a catch. Even though we felt we didn't need the stupid sugar, and that what we got was too much, we had no option but to go regularly and buy it. Apparently, if nothing is procured for more than 3 months then the card becomes invalid. Then there is another whole lot procedures involved to revive it. So once in a while either mom or me would go and get it when it was least crowded at the shop. But then soon after, like many others, the simplest thing to do was to give the card to someone else who needs the sugar. So we gave the card to someone to buy the sugar, and just keep the card alive. After moving to a new house, again the whole hassle of changing the address and all. But the worst problem was that i couldn't find anyone to take the card for the whole of two months...! And September was the third month, after which the card might become invalid...! And i didn't want to wait to find out if that was true. So well, seeing no other way, i had to go and stand in a queue, which was surprisingly long during the end of the month. Apparently it was because of the 1 Rupee rice. Ahh heck.. So after more than 2 agonizing hours of standing in a queue, i finally got my "essential" supplies. Four and a half kilos of sugar. After triumphantly saving my card from invalidity, i marched back home. ( Bought a1.5LCoke bottle and "Hide and Seek" biscuit from MORE super market on the way home. )

So whats with this stupid system? Its supposed to help the poor, but in reality its a cunning deception by politicians, bureaucrats and officers to fill their own pockets.They very well know that many card holders don't need the supplies, yet they continue to go along with it. The reason is that it is one of the most lucrative way to steal at all levels. From the top most politician or bureaucrat to the man who works at the PDS shop.  First, most don't get their rations every month (like i missed out on two months) and thus more available for the black market. Then they also want to show a huge number of people "benefited" by the PDS system, thus putting up a good public and statistical image. Getting dirt cheap rice and other commodities, means more margin for profits at the black market. A Kilogram of rice, will probably cost 20 Rupees/Kg in the open market. The PDS man will sell a 25 Kg bag for that price in the black market and in return compensate 25 Rupees to the government and show bogus receipts. Well, we all know this all too well. Have seen all this in the Rajini movies of the 80s itself.

Ahh well. Lets just hope there is some more thought put into the system. If anyone tries to correct the system a bit, he/she will be deemed as a villain to the common man. That's the story of Indian politicians. But seriously, only those who really deserve the aid, must receive it. Not all can afford to buy in the open market so definitely they must be helped by the PDS system. But the problem is that the government doesn't know how to select the deserving people. Choosing the whole bunch is a lot easier and profitable for them. Despite the availability of food at such low cost, if people still die of hunger, in a country of vast bounty of natural goodness, then there is something inherently wrong.
 
So the point is that, I only need a card as a proof of my residence, and not a coupon to avail me discounts. These trivial things can and must be amended soon, for the better.