Back to Bharat

May 18, 2017

The mango cutter and his daughter

Filed under: daughter, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 21:38

mango_cutter

Early morning of a May day, a father and daughter in the market starting their day. The father is expecting his business to pick up. His equipment – a gunny bag, a cloth, and a large cutter that is used to cut ripe mangoes that will be turned into pickles.

I was reminded of a day when I took my daughter to work. And this is another father who is taking his daughter to work. Such a contrast. What did I do to deserve this differential treatment?

April 26, 2017

Artificial Wombs and Sperm Banks

An article in the verge claims that an artificial womb has been developed to grow baby sheep. It is estimated that even human babies can be grown in a similar fashion. It is absolutely dandy what technology has achieved. As per the article:

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.

…..

It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy.

artificial_womb_calf

It truly is appealing…

Frozen sperm in a bank, no need to hold, push, or yank.
It has been done for you well ahead,
A brochure of well endowed men to eliminate chance.
Well winnowed to weed out the idiots,
No foreplay, or even any kind of play needed.
Why leave this to randomness,
The best seed is available, 24/7, everywhere.

Wombs a-galore in glass enclosures.
Prepared, sterilized and ready to go,
Can they integrate with instagram?
The baby to be visible as it develops legs and arms.
When it is born, watch live on skype,
Why go for the normal when the exclusive is on order?
Select a unique name using google, why risk asking mother, or grandmother?

What a wonderful world, full of opportunities.
Enjoyment forever, due process to eliminate all worries.
No waiting, dating, or exchanging of vows.
Feminists can rejoice, MCPs can party,
True independence from all troublesome activity.
Life can continue un-imbibed with technologies,
Is it not awesome to live with these certainties.

Wait there is more to come.
Why cant we have someone pay for all this?
After all we end up working for a company.
Maybe they can grow the base of their employee.
Selected, trained, and groomed from the womb.
Manufactured to precession to follow every rule.
Such a world, so full of possibility…

McBabies, oh that would be so dandy.
We could select from a menu,
Maybe “make it a deal” with a toy to carry.

December 6, 2016

Treatment of parents

Filed under: common man, family, social change — neosurya @ 17:23

I had a friend (A) who posed a problem a few days ago: We were speaking about taking care of his father (B). B had a regular job, but did not take particular care of his kids. Each day after office, B came home for a short while in the evening, and stayed to himself. Income was regular, and the mother of A was efficient. So, the kids were able to get a good childhood. But it was very clear that B had no real role in their upbringing. A’s life was not ruined because B’s income was more than sufficient. B however, was totally disinterested in family life.

B (the father), and B’s wife (A’s mother) were living in Bangalore. A’s mother had recently passed away. Till the mom was alive, A and his siblings (a sister in India and a brother who was in USA) would visit B occasionally. Festivals and other customary visits were kept up. B and his wife regularly visited A and siblings also. For about 3-4 months a year, B and his wife would come and stay with A. But there was no real love lost between B and rest of the family.

B continued to visit his kids after his wifes death. But B was not a pleasant person to be with. His friends were no more, and he would continuously complain about one thing or the other. No major physical or financial damage, but there would be no fatherly (or grand-fatherly)  involvement as well. He would have an unpleasant face all through the day, and entering his room was like seeing a person who is sulking his way to the other world. B would be extremely particular about his schedule, food habits, and general preferences about daily life.

The challenge was that B was going to be over 80. There was no disease in particular, but he was getting old. Senility was bringing on other challenges.

A argued that B should be sent to an old home while B was still in OK health. Once health went down further, argued A, it will be difficult for B to adjust to an old home. B did not want to be sent to an old home. B was saying that to get his (substantial) self-gained property, A and his siblings must take care of B at home.

I had seen another father once like this. An old man, in his 80’s living near Tarnaka, Osmania University, Hyderabad. I had gone to him to seek legal advise. His room was on the first floor of the garage of an independent villa in Tarnaka. The villa was his own, but he had given the whole place for rent. His servant lived downstairs in the garage, and he lived upstairs. The room had a desk with an old transistor radio facing a window that overlooked the street. An old teak bed had been set towards one of the walls with a grayed out mosquito net that had seen more regal times. There were about 3 chairs in the room, but only one was empty. The others had huge stacks of letters and legal correspondence. There was a bookshelf on one side which recessed into the wall. It also probably held his clothes.

While discussing the legal problem, I had mentioned that I was from such and such company. The father slowly got out his sons card, and said you know him – “He is the senior Engg VP of ***. Do you know him? He is also into IT.”. This old man’s son was a very senior executive in a global multinational company. When I say senior, really senior – like the VP of a major engg. division of a Fortune 500 firm. He could have been my bosses bosses boss. The father was speaking about his son with pride, but it was apparent that he could not live with the son either. The old father made a point to mention that all his grandkids visit him during major festivals. “Even if they miss some due to exams, they come during Deepavali for sure.”, he said.

I have seen some unfortunate mothers’, father-in-laws, and mother-in-laws also in the same situation. Maybe there were good reasons to do this. Maybe the women or men created unhappy situations in the family. Maybe the father or mother were more nasty and looked mellow to strangers. Maybe there are some worse family secrets. Maybe this is a necessary feature of our modern, liberal, urban lifestyle. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I wonder, If we cannot take care of a mother and father who gave us birth, can we be good to complete strangers? If we give second chances to a terrorist, a murderer, a common criminal, why not parents? Maybe it is wishful thinking on part of a liberal society that humans are good. Maybe there is no true love among humans. Maybe. Maybe not.

April 16, 2015

Awesome money spinning methods or Skimming of customers

Filed under: India, law, market, personal, social change — neosurya @ 12:00

Interesting call with my mobile phone service provider:

Me: I got this internet usage bill for Rs 700 for March and Rs 300 for Feb. What is this?

Rep: Sir, 2G internet usage sir.

Me: I use a Nokia 1616, it cannot have internet usage. —- For the new-gen folks who have only seen smartphones, this phone has buttons, 255-colors screen, you get the drift —-

Rep: Yes sir, my system shows you are using Nokia 1616 as we speak. But sir data is switched on in the phone.

Me: How can a Nokia 1616 use 400 MB of data?

Rep: I dont know sir. Maybe some app is running.

Me: Look, can you please disable 2G service on this connection?

Rep: No sir, 2G comes free with every mobile phone connection.

Me: Dude, Rs 700 a month is not free. And you tell me you will not switch it off?

Rep: You will have to move to a different service provider. Our company will by default provide you with 2G enabled connection only. — In other words, we paid a lot of money to TRAI to license this shit. Money has to be recovered from somehwhere. —

Me: OK. — Facepalm —

Rep: For the charges, you will have to visit our store. — A polite way of saying, You will have to go there and shout —

Me: OK. Thanks.

—————————————End of call————————————-

One of my friends used to work for a leading mobile service provider. One strategy to get more money was to call unsuspecting customers to install ring-tones, or other “value added services”, but not inform them that these services would have a costly monthly subscription, or that these services would be delivered over 2G. Maybe we fell prey to one such scheme. Maybe there was indeed some app on the phone that is accessing data. I dont know.

I did not like the business practice of cashing in on users not being able to switch off services. But, a lot of modern services run that way. Individuals who create such plans and schemes also make the most amount of money in corporate orgs. Of course, technical people make money. But it is peanuts compared to the money made by such planners.

Makes me retch. But who knows how I would behave if I wanted to buy the good things money can get, and I had only an MBA and a sales job to get me there?

March 16, 2011

Corruption, convenience money?

Filed under: social change — neosurya @ 17:31

If regulators in our country cannot control things like pilot licenses, can we trust them to run large projects like nuclear reactors?

In recent news, it came out that an Indigo flight landed with its nose down. Initially, Indigo placed this pilot “Captain Parminder Kaur Gulati” on a training program [1, 2]. Further inquiries revealed that the said pilot had used fake documents to get a license and a promotion for the post of a captain from a co-pilot [1]. The lady in question has been arrested; I hope that her flying career is finished and that she would be punished. Following this disclosure, another pilot has been arrested for fake mark sheets. It appears that there are several such pilots, and the rabbit hole seems to run deeper. To quote an article from ANI [1]:

Commenting on the recent detection of pilots for possessing fake CPLs (Commercial Pilot Licences) as qualified commanders,    Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari on Tuesday slammed the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for not being a stern regulator of the aviation sector.

…..

“The real problem lies with the DGCA itself. The fact of the matter is that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is not an independent regulator. It is not mandated by an act of this Parliament. So therefore, they are susceptible to all kinds of pulls and pressure, which makes even the examining arm of the DGCA not talk to the licensing arm,” Tiwari said in the Lok Sabha.

“So, therefore there is no verification, whether a particular mark sheet is correct, whether a particular person has passed a particular test before a license is submitted (issued),” he added.

Co-pilots themselves are paid very well; If they cheated in order to be paid more, that speaks volumes about how corruption and greed is causing problems even in professional fields. Corruption is a known issue in large projects, especially in India. There is nothing new in that. The concern I now have is that increasingly, even professionals are starting to look at corruption as the way to go.

There is also an argument that corruption is just convenience money. If it is ONLY convenience money, I would prefer that it should be formalized across the board, for example like Tatkal tickets. But when convenience money is not made institutional, the line between corruption and convenience gets blurred.

It is also extremely lame if people cannot wait a while to get what they want. And this is worse when it concerns exams, degrees, job experience and other such. To give an extreme example, I find this behavior first seen in people who run after a “job guarantee with the least effort”. Students have often come to me and ask about what is the easiest way to get “a project”. Worse, people pay fake companies about 15-20K to give them equally fake experience certificates. The very same people will not be willing to pay this amount to their college for decent education. I find it difficult to explain that engineering requires hard work, that passing an exam or getting a fake degree is not a gate to smooth sailing. You have to put in reasonably good amount of work each day and people will see through your on the job performance. I then get a horrified silent look in return :).

Given the wide prevalence of such habits, I wonder if our society forgotten hard work? Or maybe, a majority do not see how convenience and corruption can closely go together. Or maybe, mediocrity has come to be accepted in our society (My earlier blog post on this).

October 26, 2010

India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha

Filed under: book, election, India, politics, social change — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 06:32

A must read for anyone remotely interested in Indian democracy. Guha does not go left, right, center, or anywhere else except trudge along the path of Indian democracy from 1947 all the way up-to 2000 (The date the book was published). Where the events demanded, he also went a little bit before 1947, for example to explain how the Lahore convention of the Congress was where the Muslim League was born. The references make for more interesting reading, but I followed up only a few of them.

Some reviewers say that the book should have had some analysis of events. But this book was meant to have a historical or journalistic flavor, and getting into an analysis mode is incredibly academic in nature. Most books out there wax eloquent on their preferred political leanings. Once Indian historians start writing an analysis, they end up making holier-than-thou statements. The reader is hopelessly lead into a particular view point, and the event itself is lost in the melee. Very few tell the story as it happened, and in words that the common man can understand. Guha rises up to the occasion in this book.

The book reads fast, and I could not put it down once I had picked it up. This may not be the book for individuals seasoned in contemporary Indian history. They may already be familiar with most its contents. However, this would be the book I shall recommend my daughter to read instead of the history textbooks that muddle our brain cells in school.

October 3, 2010

123 Kms of cycling and some social work

Filed under: personal, social change, travel — neosurya @ 19:29

On 2nd Oct, I and KP rode to the village of Tekulodu to visit proto-village, a project on village development (Pics here). Kalyan and a bunch of his friends are planning some pretty amazing work in this border village, and I wanted to see it first hand. Also, this was my first long cycle ride. Thanks to Mayank who helped me get a good bike. There was no way I could have done it on my Thunder MTB. Also thanks to my wife and kids, who had to stay back at a friends place at IISc.

The distance was approximately123 Kms (googlemaps) which we covered in about 6 hours:

4:30 AM: Met KP at Sanjay Nagar flyover.

5:20 AM: Crossed BIAL flyover.

6:00 AM: Stopped for a 10-min break at Jain temple.

6:50 AM: Saw the photo of a dosa outside a restaurant, decided to drive through Chikballapur in search of an eating place.

7:00 AM: Stopped at “Hotel Brindavan Garden”

9:46 AM: Crossed the AP check post. By this time, KP was ahead of me by about a kilometer or so. As I rode under an overpass at Bagepalli, KP yelled from the bridge – he was having a Sprite and wanted me to pull over. I continued yelling: “Cant stop now man, my body will refuse to get back onto this saddle.”

10:00 AM: Caught up with Kalyan who was riding from Hindupur toward the NH-7 – Lepakshi junction.Chatted for a while and started off for Tekulodu.

10:45 AM: Reached Tekulodu.

The regular hydration, and chikkis kept us in great shape. We were stretching all through the route and took a couple of minutes break every hour or so. We were energetic enough to walk through the village. There was one problem though – my left shoulder was aching, and I had pins and needles on my left palm. The shoulder pain went off after some stretching, but the pins and needles on my palm refused to go away till the next day.

We dropped by the house of one Harish, a youth from the village who was to be the host for the afternoon. The kids in the village were totally ga-ga over our bikes. In about a few minutes there were about 20 of them asking us all sorts of questions. Several of them rode our bikes.
Bikers !!!

We walked over to the primary school where a celebration about the ICDS program was on the way. Kalyan also spoke for a few minutes.

 

ICDS program

ICDS program

 

We had a long walk, where Harish (a youth from the village) showed us around the place. Kalyan and I discussed various problems going from water all the way to ecological housing. All the while, KP was getting popular with the kids:

 

KP getting popular with kids.

KP getting popular with kids.

 

We had lunch at Harish’s place. KP had to leave in the evening, and I stayed back for an SHG meeting. Most women of the village participated in the meeting. We discussed the flouride problem in their water. Kalyan described possible solutions, and recommended that they should plan on having a purification plant installed by Nov. end. He had already spoken to a firm in Ahmedabad, and went over the pricing details.

It was almost 10:00 PM by the time we ate our dinner. We climbed onto the terrace of a house that was still under construction, and settled down for the night – the bedding was sparse: a straw mat, a pillow, and a bed sheet. Nani, the Panchayat president’s son accompanied me and Kalyan. What a night – the sky was so clear that we could almost see the milky way.

A nice way to spend a national holiday, I thought. I and Kalyan left for Hindupur on Sunday morning. After breakfast at Kalyan’s place, I took the APSRTC bus from Hindupur bus stand to Mekhri circle.

September 23, 2010

The Commonwealth dRain…

Filed under: common man, democracy, India, politics, social change — Tags: , — neosurya @ 09:56

A few days down the line, we would have headlines that say – India is largest Gold medal winner at the commonwealth games. Guess why??? None of the leading athletes from other countries would attend, that is why. Several top athletes have pulled out of the games – some citing health reasons, some security, and still others – “personal causes”. These are but euphemisms to hide the true cause: (i) Unscrupulous contractors have used this event as a money making mechanism. True, media may have blown some of the problems, but we have to admit that there is no guarantee of good construction. The main Stadium, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium had been constructed in 1982. Most of the costs have been toward renovation. Renovation can be expensive, but not Rs 70,000 crores. (ii) Delhi has become an unplanned mess, with the local populace considering the event not as something to be proud of, but as another Government activity that they have to bear. This event could have been held at a place like Bhopal, or Nagpur, or some other town that needed infrastructure. (iii) There is likely to be little audience for the event. Maybe the Govt. could bring in truck loads of people promising them biriyani and a packet of hoonch like they do for the elections. Some of these “common” people could even participate in a game or two – maybe high jump, to leave the stadia and run from the boredom. (iv) Organizing machinery that exudes absolutely no confidence to attendees [1].

Civil servants in charge of the event may be able to pull off a magic trick or two. But people of calibre, like top athletes rarely not put their trust in magic tricks. They trust planning and strategy. The only people adopting strategy seem to be contractors who have come up with methods to fleece tax payers. About Rs 70,000 seems to have been spent on the games [1, 2], while the original budget seems to have been for Rs 11,494 crores [1]. The games had been awarded seven years ago[1, 2]; there was no need to have delayed construction for so long. Even the smallest component could have been finished well in advance.

Like in a dark, paradoxical comedy, a saving grace could be that  Dilli has floods, and the Yamuna is a meter above the flood level. The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is about 2 Kms from the Yamuna (View map here). It is also the stadium that would host the commonwealth games, if they happen that is. Officials behind the commonwealth games can now blame a likely sham on the Gods.

A list of athletes who pulled out: Australia: Stephanie Rice, Dani Samuels. Kenya: David Rudisha, Edwin Soi, Asbel Kiprop, Linet Masai. Jamaica: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell. England: Andy Murray, Lisa Dobriskey [1, 2]. Some of these withdrawals are due to injuries.

September 8, 2010

Cycle Yatra.

I recently joined the Bangalore Bikers Club. And the very first post got me interested. The post spoke about the “Swapathgami Cycle Yatra“. A brief note about the yatra:

it is a week long cycle trip into rural
Rajasthan. What sets this trip apart from a general cycle trip is that
we do not carry any money, electronic gadgets or first aid medicines
with us. We stop at villages along the route and find work to earn our
board and lodge.

The following you tube video is from the yatra in 2006:

June 21, 2010

Concrete development.

Filed under: gandhian principles, market, nature, news, social change — Tags: — neosurya @ 15:37

Visited a “green” venture by a local developer. The guy even asked us tips to make the place greener; they claimed that some folks from Canada had bought a 1 acre property there, and a businessman from Dubai was going to come in a day or two. One of us was an avid byker, The developer asked him for the brand of international bikes that would be appropriate for his brand. He had ducks in artificial ponds, ostriches, turkeys (from turkey)??? The place was guaranteed to develop, would give us great returns, he promised. Wonderful. On the return journey, we mulled over the development that was unfolding about 70 Kms from Bangalore and about 15 Kms from Kanakpura.

As we passed by the concrete pillars built on Outer ring road near Agara Kere, we wondered how “green” these were, and how green would the construction in the village near Kanakpura. BTW, there is no mention of the village on the developer’s website.

And, I also wonder how we became developing nations, and a few other countries became developed nations. Is it because of all the concrete, the air-conditioning, and all the medication that they are getting, or is it because of their obesity. I guess when all toilets in a country get air-conditioning, the nation can be called well-developed.

I remembered an article in the Hindu about how impoverished African refugees were being developed. Or were they?

In Kandikiti, where Jean Lupanga’s family lives, a group of 20 villagers won a $4,000 grant last year to start a pig farm to help orphans. The group bought nine pure-bred hogs, built them a residence nicer than those of most people and posted volunteers to guard it round the clock. They also bought 10 bicycles, vaccines for the pigs and paid their members to attend training sessions.

More than a year later, they have not sold a single one of the white, floppy-eared, European-bred pigs. In a village where scruffy local pigs trot freely among the huts, the group’s leader fell silent when asked who could afford such expensive pork.

And then, this article on corporate, colonial, and now Asian interests in Africa:

About Africa’s role in the world, the old colonial mindset seems to be alive and kicking. Recently a senior French minister called Africa “our El Dorado”, a legendary city of gold. France reportedly wants to ensure broader influence in Africa, seen as “a frontier for profit-making.” Many American, EU and Chinese companies seem to share this perspective.

Will Indian companies be different? Will they give to Africa as much as they receive from it, if not more? This is perhaps what Ratan Tata had in mind when he recently recalled that South Africa had been a victim of “exploitative and extractive enterprise”. He suggested that India and South Africa could have “a different relationship”, one based on mutual benefit and genuine partnership. His advice applies to all Indian companies operating in Africa, not just in South Africa.

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.