Monday, February 27, 2012

Why do I blog ?

  1. I don't have a life
  2. I want to meet new people and make friends
  3. I want a place to vent out all my emotions and use my blog as a punch bag
  4. I am a sympathy seeker
  5. I am a big critique and a highly opinionated person
  6. I want to become famous and have a lot of fan following
  7. I want to write be a an author and write a book
  8. To sell point 4, I need to have point 3
  9. I want to make a lot of money from point 5
  10. I want to entertain people with my wit and wisdom
None of the above is true for me. Living since a long time now in a non English speaking country has made my English quite rusty. So, just wanted to brush it up ! :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Anna Hazare and all that ....

I am quite amazed to see that there is absolutely no mention of Anna Hazare and his team in the recent news. Neither do I see any blog post from the famous bloggers on the same topic. Is there any follow up of the ardent task they had started ? What happened to the enthusiastic followers who took up the cause with such passion ? Is it another case of our people where our short memory is to be blamed ? I had been following this campaign quite closely from the beginning. I even went on to read the draft prepared by Team Anna and also read the one which our government proposed. Quite frankly speaking the draft from the government was a joke. Even a novice like me which absolutely no knowledge of how bills are passed in our parliament could tell that.

Anyways, this is not a post about what Anna did or whether the ways he took were right or wrong. I have read many articles from both sides of the argument. But my biggest surprise is that since the beginning of the campaign, people are just discussing whether a bill will be passed or not. Hundreds of articles have been written by one group of people congratulating Team Anna for the noble cause they have undertaken and for amalgamating the entire nation to fight against corruption. Hundreds of articles have also been written by the second group of people criticizing the whole campaign as a sham and for making a mockery of our democracy and that such a bill will  do nothing more than creating a new government department which will also eventually end up corrupt.  

There are numerous articles and essays written which only discuss the problem but never aim at finding any solution or even discussing it. I have yet to find an article or a blog where the author actually proposes a solution or at least brainstorm steps that should be taken to achieve the removal of corruption. I can understand that there can not be a foolproof plan for such a vast and diverse country like ours but at least one has to start somewhere.

Being 100% corruption free is a myth. It is impossible. It is a basic human trait to return favors. Even the most advanced and developed nations are not completely corruption free. In fact they have come up with a fancy word called Lobbying, which for me is totally bogus. So, we must concentrate on getting rid of the lower level corruption. Now, I am neither an economist or someone with a fancy MBA degree but still I feel there are two ways to eradicate core corruption.

1. Start completely fresh. Complete restart. Like what happened in Germany after the war. The common man was left with nothing. They had to build up the complete nation from zero and thus there was this community feeling. People took upon themselves to work hard and build up their nation. Hence, only honest efforts were put in. This option looks pretty tough in case of India considering its vast size and I don't think there is any holocaust coming soon.

2. To copy the model of Nordic countries (i.e. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland). They are the least corrupt countries in the world [link]. Start by copying the model and then trim it in a way to adopt it according to Indian needs. Of course, one can argue that copying that model is impossible since the population of those countries are not comparable to India. I would say let us start from State level or even lower to the Municipal level. It needs to initiated at least somewhere and then build upon it.  

With any holocaust not in sight, copying the model seems like a good idea. There are many aspects in that model but the one which I feel should be implemented foremost is to have a balanced and flat society with less divide between rich and poor. The race to become rich by the poor (to have basic comforts like house and car) and to become richer by the rich so that the poor don't catch up is the breeding ground for corruption. Take for example the case of a government servant like a police inspector. The average salary of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) is between 15-39k [link]. A police inspector is below the rank of an ACP thus getting even a lower salary. With such a pay scale, can he offer a good private school education for this kid ? At the same time the entry level pay of a software engineer would be double than that. This is not see in the case of the Nordic model. Yes, even there the public sector salaries are less than the corporate world but not in the magnitude of half or even less. This is just an average case. I am not even talking about going further down one level where the salaries would be exponentially low.

Another thing which much be copied and I think is extremely important is to have uniform education for all and a must. Strangely enough, it was just last year that education became a must in India by law. Even that is not sufficient. The quality of education should also be at par. It should be more or less of the same quality regardless of the economical background of the student. I know all of this might be sounding too ideal but how else can I believe that the student coming from a Hindi medium state sponsored school be able to compete with a private convent school educated  student. If you are running a company yourself, which of the two will you pick ? This will in turn lead that public school student towards a lowly paid job entrapping him in the same circle which he will try to come out in any way possible thus increasing corruption. Another point to note here is that how will an illiterate be able to elect the correct candidate during elections to govern him ? Is is possible for the illiterate person to actually analyze things around him before he goes to vote ? It comes out as no surprise that voter turnout in urban areas is falling since the educated people are slowly giving up on the politicians [link]. Of course, it is good news that the rural turnout is increasing but equally alarming and dangerous is the higher turnout in rural areas where uneducated people could be easily influenced to vote for anyone. I have never seen huge rallies and gatherings in urban areas but at the same time there are record breaking turnouts each year in such rallies in the rural places. This also shows me that there is absolutely no political will to educate the people since if the people actually knew what our politicians are doing, they might not vote for them or even go to the polls.

Finally, I believe people in India should give up this "chalta-hai-dude-attitude". It irritates and annoys me to exorbitant levels to see such attitude. Yes, such an attitude does solves the problem at hand for the time being but in the long run, I don't think it is an efficient way. We are getting too used to thinking short term for petty gains and forgetting the big picture.  

This is the last year of the 11th Five Year Plan laid by the Planning Commission of India. I only hope that the draft of the next plan take some non conventional steps to break India from the shackles of corruption, poverty and illiteracy, all of which are interdependent on each other to a great extent.   

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Desi Fast Food

I read an interesting article last week in the news. I read it first here and then the same article appeared here and finally I saw it appearing on DesiPundit. After reading the same article at so many places, I thought of writing my own experience here. I have never been to Bombay Bowl but tried a similar one called Merzi also mentioned in the article.

I was in Washington DC last year and I also wrote a post on it here. After reading the news about Indian fast food entering US mainstream business, I remembered my encounter with one in DC. I was there for about two weeks and staying at a hotel in the downtown area. Chinatown was walking distance from my hotel. Often in the night after dinner, I used to take a walk there since it was a lively place. I also used to pass by an eating joint called Merzi. It seemed like an Indian/Pakistani place but I never paid any special attention to it. I thought it was just like any other Desi Restaurant.

After about a week eating American food, my taste buds were longing for something tangy and spicy. Moreover, I was missing Indian food. I did not wanted to go to any random Indian Restaurant. The reason being, I am a big critique when it comes to Desi food at a restaurant. When I know that I am paying for Indian food then I don't like to make compromises. And usually I find many Indian Restaurants outside India serving pretty bland food. So, I don't like to take such risks and go to one without a good review.

One night while looking for a place to eat, I thought of checking out, what was this Merzi thing. The place looked pretty decent with the flashy interiors. I came to know that it was not like a typical Indian Restaurant but more like a fast food center for the Desi tongue. On further probing I found it was based on the famous Mexican fast food chain in the US called Chipotle. It's a place quite famous for its Burritos, where the customer can make their own by selecting the base, fillings and toppings more like in an assembly line. Here are some similarities and differences between the two:

  Chipotle   Merzi
Select the base   Roll or Rice   Naan or Rice or Roti
Select the filling   Beans, Meat, Vegetables etc   Chick Peas, Meat, Vegetables etc
Select the topping   Sauce   Sauce/Chutney

I remember as a kid, I used to go to this street vendor near my house selling spicy chick peas on top of normal bread with a sour sauce on top. So, I liked the idea with Naan bread as a base at Merzi. Being a vegetarian, I had a lot of chick peas on top of it with all the available vegetables and finally the Chutnies on the top. The best thing was that they tasted really like the desi ones with flavors of tamarind, mint etc. I was quite satisfied with what I got for the price I paid. Of course I took an additional Samosa (also available) as a starter :)

So, my comments: decent quantity, healthy & fresh food, reasonable price, spicy/tangy taste, not heavy after eating, desi touch. I should mention here that it is not the typical Indian cuisine but that is the whole point. It is fast food with the Indian touch. It should be treated as a break from the everyday daal, roti, rice and nothing more.

There were two things which I found a pretty amusing. I observed that I was the only Indian sitting inside that place which was almost full. Maybe because it was a weekday when I was there. I am not a racist or anything but I found it amusing that a Mexican guy and a Black woman were serving me Indian food.

I am sure that for people living in the US it might not be a big deal but for a foreigner like me, I liked the whole idea and I feel that there is a big market out there for this concept. I hope to see something like that soon in Germany as well :) I had another good experience at Maoz in NY but its a different cuisine and a complete different story. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Resting in Peace

Quite often we talk about ourselves running around like looney tunes trying to get everything possible in this world. Like, at the end it would leave us happy ! Usually, that is not the case but we learn it often the hard way. 

Anyways, I was reading a blog today which reminded me of something that I had posted before on my blog here. It also reminded me that I had another story of Alexander the Great or Sikandar (as we know him in the subcontinent) to share.

After winning the rest of the world, Sikandar eyed the wealth of India. So, he along with his legions marched towards India. When trying to enter India, he and his army had to cross a river. While crossing the river, Sikandar saw a Sage lying around leisurely outside his hut on the river banks. It made him curious. Sikandar went to him and ask what are you doing ? The Sage replied that he was "resting in peace". The answer left Sikandar a little confused. He thought, what a useless guy and carried on with his march.

Sikandar went on his conquest of capturing many kingdoms of Northern India which eventually took its toll on may lives. Cities were ruined, people were killed, all for the sake of more and more. On his way back after winning the kingdoms and extending his empire, his caravan again passed through the same Sage he met on his way to India. Sikandar made it a point to visit the Sage and talk to him. He went to the Sage and proudly declared what he had won and how he had extended the boundaries of his empire. After listening Sikandar's tales of glory, the Sage asked him, O King, what will you do now once you have won almost the complete world ? Feeling satisfied, Sikandar replied, I will now be "resting in peace". Amused at Sikandar's reply, the Sage laughed at him. Sikandar, finding a little discomfort in the the Sage's laugh asked him what was so amusing in that ? The Sage replied, what you will do now, is what I was doing when you passed me, i.e. "resting in peace".

The moral of the story is not that we should just sit and do nothing all our lives but that while working and doing our designated jobs, not to get lost in the idea of more and more.

Friday, February 10, 2012

... worth a thousand words !

Today, I was checking the results of the 2011 World Press Photo of the Year award. A photo taken by a Spanish photographer named Samuel Aranda (for New York Times) won the top prize. The photo shows a veiled woman holding an injured relative during the demonstrations in Yemen.

Photo taken from: Photo Blog on [Link]

The winning photo immediately reminded me of a photo I took at the famous basilica in Marseille, France (Notre-Dame de la Garde). It was also one of my favorite photos of the trip. 

Photo taken from: My own blog post [Link]

Although, both the photos speak a lot by themselves, I found a stark similarity in both the photos. Even if they are from different times, from different cultures, different lands, different religions, the emotions and the expressions depicted remain the same. And one fact stands out quite boldly, that in times of pain, grief and despair, there is nothing comparable to the warmth and embrace of a woman.

But it also made me think ... no matter how many saints and preachers came and went, but we as human beings never learned .... the sufferings still continue ..... neti neti neti !

Monday, February 6, 2012

One Breath

I find that these days people are quite stressed up with life. Yes, they have their moments of laugh but deep down inside they are not really happy and satisfied. There is always this anxiety building up for many reasons from day to day. I find that people are under constant pressure to perform continuously, not so much for themselves but for the people around them and the society. And in all aspects of life and both professionally and personally.

How will I finish my studies ? Will I be able to get a job ? Will I be able to make money ? Will I get a nice girl/boy to marry ? Will I be able to fill the installments of the house/car etc successfully ? .... these are some of the common questions which I feel everyone has sometime or the other in his/her life. Then, there are questions about whether things would have been different. Would have been better if I had done an MBA and not Engg. Would have been better if my boyfriend/girlfriend did not left me. Would have been different if my loved ones never left me. There is always this pinch from the past which stays and keep poking at times.

Recently,  I was reading something and came across a very simple but thought provoking line:

hum aadmiyaan ik dami

It can be directly translated to: We are people of one breath. Though simple but I feel it has a pretty deep meaning. Human beings need one breath at a time to live. Our existence is dependent on each breath we take. The one which we have already taken is long gone and the one coming next does not yet exist. Thus, we must be more concerned about the current breath and not get lost in the last one or the coming one. This can also be seen in terms of another construct of like nakad (hard cash)  and udhaar (debt/loan). The breath already taken is like money spent. It will not come back. The one which has not arrived yet is like a loan and no one knows if that loan will actually be sanctioned. All we have is the current breath which is like nakad or hard cash. So, I think it makes sense to use that hard cash intelligently and not waste it on petty things. A poet quite beautifully quoted this idea in his poem in farsi:

yak dam bakhesh rah na burdam ke keesatam
aye waye nakadey zindagi, raye gaa gujast

The same analogy can be used with our behavior. We keep living in the pretext of past or in the anticipation of future and forget the present. If one closely look at the questions I listed above, one can definitely make the connection. The problems or stress which we have is because we keep living in the past or future but never in the present. I think the moment we acknowledge the importance of present, life would become much easier and satisfying. I would admit that it is easier said than done but still we must constantly keep reminding ourselves of the above mentioned phrase.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Latest on the Playlist

Out of nowhere, a song started playing on my playlist after a long long time and once again I am hooked to it.

It will keep playing in Repeat mode now till I get sick of it :)