Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Underdogs

I tried it many times. I have many drafts on my blog to prove that I tried to write many times in the last few months but each time before pushing the Publish button, I thought, who cares! This site is only visited by a few people who I could count on my fingers, and the rest are just spammers from Russia. But, the bug in me made me come back again. Lets see how long it lasts this time :) 

I wanted to document my thoughts before a special event. An event, which might change many things in India or at least in Delhi. It's a city which has a very special place in my heart. No matter where I live, it always remain in my thoughts. The event I am talking about is the upcoming elections in Delhi. Now, to set it straight, I am a completely apolitical person. In fact, I am in my early 30s right now and I have never voted in India till today. A lot of people blame me for not voting but I have my own reasons. I will share two of them which are top on my list:
  1. I clearly remember an afternoon when I was in school. It was a voting day for the elections. At that time, I was below my voting age. Some people came to our house and asked our family to come and vote. My grandmother at that time was quite old and could hardly walk. My family took me to the voting place since they did not wanted to leave me alone in the house. I went with them and at the entrance of the voting place, we were told that according to their records my family had already voted. I was surprised since we had not left the house since morning. After talking with the guys, we were allowed to get in and simply vote on some other people's name. On top of that, although my grandmother was not with us, they allowed me to vote on her behalf. Naive in my heart with absolutely no idea of elections, manifestos, candidates, campaigns etc, I went in the polling booth with ink on my finger, feeling all grown up, I just stamped on the most fancy looking logo on the ballot paper.
  2. Many years later, after reaching the voting age, once again came election day. At that time I knew the candidates of the top three parties since they were known to our family. Since I knew that they are not the people who I would trust with my vote, I did not went to vote. I was helpless since there was no other choice. I could not bear the burden of electing a wrong candidate. My conscious did not allowed me. In that case, I would be the person to be blamed later since even after knowing that the candidates are lairs, I would have voted for one of them.
The above mentioned two incidents and a few others totally made me loose trust in the elections. And further through the years, I learned more about the workings of this world. I was convinced that all these elections are nothing but just a waste of time, money and energy. Until now. This is the first time, I feel like voting. Somehow, somewhere in my heart there is hope, once again. And it is only because of a new unconventional party called AAM, spearheaded by Arvind Kejriwal.

I must make it clear that I have absolutely no political alignment. I only want the governments to be honest and to work to make life of its people easier. I do not consider it a business and it is not a place where people should be making money out of it. Only people with intentions of doing good for the people should enter it.

Here, I would like to mention some points as to why that ray of hope has raised inside me. Or in fact some points which makes this party standout this time in elections.
  1. The most striking think I found about this party was its Manifesto. It is crisp and to the point with some very clear cut goals. Unlike the generic ones usually made by political parties which holds almost no credibility before or after elections. I do not know if any political party advertised its Manifesto before in a similar way as this new party since they are always afraid what if anyone comes and blame them later for not sticking to it. I do not care if they are able to fulfill everything in it if they win. At least they have clear cut points where they can be openly held accountable in the future.
  2. The next is their campaigning. The party leaders are really working at Ground Zero. I mean they are really interacting with an average person and trying to listen to their problems and then planning a way ahead to eradicate them. Yes, I have seen leaders of other political parties before interacting with people but even a 10 year old can make out that it is only for a picture which might be printed next day in its party backed media outlet. In this party, there are not people following their leader for ass-licking but for true admiration. I do not care if there is any show off in their campaign. What is more important for me is when someone who would be the head of an institution try and understand people he would be governing. Lately, I have always felt that we have entered a time like in the past where the king was totally disconnected to people living in his kingdom.
  3. I have always been a person who rate openness and honesty very highly. Maybe, I have very few friends as a consequence. Anyways, this is the first time where I have seen a political party competing as openly as it can. Funds a displayed online, profile of all candidates are open for scrutiny, easily accessible for questions and suggestions.These are some things which had not been seen so often before. I do not care if they have a flaw. Human beings are not perfect but at least they can try to achieve it and I see this party making every effort to be open and honest.
  4. I have zero tolerance for people involved in political parties with a criminal background. You cannot expect and good coming from them. A couple of years back, I came across a website called during elections in UP last time. I was shocked to see that more than 50% of all candidates in UP with criminal cases against them. And I am not talking about charges of theft, charges like murder and rape were not uncommon. I was totally amazed how is it even possible to contest an election with such a background and why no one comes forward to say it is wrong. I do not care how candidates of this new party behave in the future. I cannot predict it. But right now, with the agenda they have of accepting no candidate with criminal background is noteworthy
  5. I think this point can be biased since I am from IT. I hate websites which are not made in a good manner. By this I mean the color combination, fonts etc of that website should be handled aesthetically. I find the website of the party very well made. It is easily navigable, presents the most important aspects vividly, not overcrowded and aesthetically made. Checking websites of all the mainstream parties depressed me. They look like a project work done by a school student in his summer vacations. I do not care if everyone in Delhi cannot access it because they might not have the privileges of internet and computer and it might restrict their exposure but still I am in complete awe of their online campaign.
I do not know if elections are rigged. I do not know how much do funds, contacts and media play a role in elections. I do not know how people would vote on 4th Dec. But I know for sure that if this party does not win the elections this time, I will loose complete faith in elections and democracy in India for a long time. I hope that the people of Delhi will not let me down!

Friday, March 22, 2013

News Junkie

I think I have a problem. I think I am an addict. News is my drug and Internet my dealer. 

I don't know why but I always feel like updating myself about what is going around the world every few minutes otherwise I feel restless. And what other mode could be more useful today to achieve that other than using the World Wide Web. Spending even a single day without the internet seems like getting lost.

Reading news is not the main problem but getting tangled in it and spending hours on it is my problem. And this thing really scares me sometimes. Let me explain by giving an example. There was recently this row over Italian marines in India. Just going to a website like BBC and reading the related article should ideally do the job. But, not for me. No, Sir. This is not enough information for me. I will not stop and move on with another article. I will keeping digging into the article, dissecting it piece by piece, doing a postmortem on it word by word till the point that either I get tired or bored or the Internet stop giving me any further information (this rarely happens) or I suddenly realize and ask myself, Are you crazy? Do you really need all this information? Will it help you anyway in your life? 

The thing is that I want to know everything, I want to know every opinion before making my own opinion. So, I will read the same news piece on maybe 10 different places. Like what or how the American media has written it, what is the opinion of the Indian media, what German media has to say about it, how the Europeans react to it. The madness just does not stop there. It leads to a kind of chained reaction. A random word/ting in the article will catch my attention about which my knowledge is limited. Then, I would try to google it or check it on Wikipedia to get an idea. A link explaining it would contain further links. Then I would go checking all of them out. If my appetite is not satisfied by wasting spending enough time on it, I would then go to Google Images and try to find its images. Continuing with the Italian article example, I further tried to find out what really is a marine. Then how are they recruited in Italy. Is it similar to the marines in the US. Does India also have a marine recruitment process. What are the differences, how different do they appear in reality. My curiosity just does not seem to stop at any practical level.

Another example from yesterday. I read a simple article that the brother of that Sri Lankan guy, Rajaratnam (who was earlier found guilty of fraud) was also indicted on charges of insider trading. But that did not seemed enough for me. It let me google the guy out on Google Images. Then, reading even more about the story like how did they started, where did they started, who were the players involved in that scam. The chain continued by googling more on Anil Kmar, Rajiv Goel, Rajat Gupta and even Roomy Khan. How they look, where they are from, what they studied, where they studied, whom they worked for, are they married, where are their families, what are they doing etc. I just cant stop myself, it seems. The point where I was listening to the wire taped conversation of Rajaratnam, I realized I was not in my right senses. 

I asked myself if knowing all this would help me in anyway or if it was even necessary. I am not a journalist, I don't own a media house, I am not the chief editor of any of Murdoch's many news houses. I am a simple person working in the domain of R&D in Communication Systems which has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above not just by miles or kms but by a million light years. No matter how hard I try not to waste my time on things which I have no control over or which might not be affecting me directly, but still like a junkie, I am just not able to let it go. Hope this madness has an end to it .... soon.      

Friday, March 15, 2013

A chirp ... The Twitter

I work in the field of Research and Technology and it keeps amazing me with its wonders quite regularly. To some extent I can understand the mystery around new Technologies and its evolution but the human influence around it particularly in these times is something which fascinates me beyond limits.

One of the many children of modern Technology is Twitter. The place where it has reached today is pretty unbelievable. I wanted to praise and rant about it today at the same time.

Imagine a start-up with a few people you can count on your hands coming up with an initiative. The initiative is to allow people to broadcast 140 characters at a time on a website. It is a fairly simple thought and a pretty non-trivial idea (at least for me). It was a project named twttr. That was year 2006.

In about one year, the project turned into a full blown company called Twitter. A new term was conceived called microblogging to define its genre. Today, Twitter is one of the 10 most visited websites on Internet with more than 500 million users, generating revenue in the range of three digit million USDs and employing more than a 1000 people. This is year 2012. It is definitely a commendable feat without an iota of doubt. There are few companies I have seen or heard in my lifespan which has grown at this rate. You don't see such things happening every day in your life.

I personally cam to know about Twitter in 2007 and like many other ignorant people and investors rejected it completely at that time, I did the same. I has just finished my Master's Degree and started working. I still remember very clearly a photo of about 6-7 people grinning away as the team behind this venture on a website. I tried to explore it, learn its working and idea and found the whole thing a waste of time. I said to myself that who the hell in this world would be interested and have the time to know what others are doing in real time. Time, proved me otherwise.

I feel dragged on opposite ends when thinking about the use of this free online service. At one end of the spectrum, I feel that it is quite useful in communicating new ideas, links, news with people. It is a fast way to spread the word among your group. It is a good way for celebrities/organizations to keep in touch with their fans and for the fans to follow them. It serves as a good platform to promote yourself, your product, your ideas etc. 

There is absolutely no doubt that the features offered by this online service can be useful to many but then after reaching a point, I feel dragged by the negativity of this service and drag me into thinking many questions without satisfying answers. 

1. One of the biggest angst I have with Twitter is that I lost a lot of good bloggers whom I followed left blogging completely and started twitting. They started writing smart ass one liners and all the good content they could have generated never came up. It might be possible for a teenager to keep updating themselves every minute on their phone or tablet but for a working person like me is just not possible. You loose interest since you fall back on the tweets and then at one point give up forever.

2. I can accept that maybe for some people, keeping track of what their favorite celebrity/organization is doing. I can even accept that they need to know when and where they are going, when they are eating, when they visit the loo etc but does it really make sense to know what your best pal is doing by the minute? Does it not generate the need to show-off and materialize everything around you? Does it not generate a plastic life? Does it not generate a wannabe like culture? I read a study recently which showed that more than 50% of the content on Twitter is pointless babble!

3. Then it invites all the money sharks. Market researchers start hunting for the latest trends generated by the content on Twitter. To some extent that is good from technology point of view to understand the desires, needs and the thoughts of the society but then again after reaching a point it again starts becoming fake. Questions come up like whether the content generated is authentic? Was it generated by real and active accounts or just bogus ids? Were those people even sensible enough or just simple dumb? You or your product get paid more just because you have a long list of followers? Who checks how many of them are authentic and not just one time clicks? Does it not create an environment of more unreliability and non-trust around?

I can go on and on but I don't feel like doing it since it will not change anything. Maybe these and even more points must have discussed before by many other people but I had to take it out personally somewhere and what better place than my blog.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Another big fat punjabi wedding ... (contd.)

.... contd.

The Cook: How can there be a wedding without a cook. In my opinion, food is one of the most important ingredient of a Punjabi wedding. You can let Ambrika add another digit to their debt clock but you cannot and I mean absolutely not serve mediocre food at home to the guests. To hell with the bride and groom, if the food is not good, it was not a good wedding. So, my parents called a special cook all the way from Ludhiana on someone's recommendation. And I think it was my favorite part of the wedding. They were a team of 3 with one being the head cook, one helper and one server. It was top quality food with minimum spices and oil yet high on taste and nutrition. To my amazement the cook one evening even made Pakoras with Tomato!! I consider myself a big foodie and critique but I had never heard, seen or eaten Tomato Pakoras in my life. And trust me, they were out of the world!! I could not even resist the Ghiya (Bottle gourd) dish he made on the reception night for himself and his team. So, instead of having dinner with everyone at the Reception hall, I already had it before leaving home.

The Guests: Discussing anything about a Desi wedding is incomplete without talking about the guests and their peculiarities. I felt that the arrival/departure plan of the guests change more often than the weather in England. Arriving unannounced or cancelling plans to come without informing to make the person standing at the airport/train-station go mad after hearing the cancellation news is I guess normal practices at weddings. One peculiar case was that of a relative coming unannounced by car from Shimla at 2 a.m. in the night before the wedding day. It was unbelievable to see my parents standing outside the house at 3 a.m. in the morning with temperature around 2-3 degrees to receive them and to arrange for their bed while the Baraat was to leave at 9 a.m. the same morning !! Atithi Devo Bhava, I guess !!

 The Ending: As the famous saying goes, all is well that ends well. And so was the wedding !! Everything went well, the guests left with their share of sweets and gifts and no major disaster happened which my mom was worrying about all through the wedding. Now, my mom is a person who goes to bed early and gets up early. It is hard for her to stay awake after 9:30 in the night. My father has Arthritis problem in his legs and was very close to getting operated before the wedding but avoided it. Even in such condition, I could not believe the energy and enthusiasm my parents showed during the wedding. It seemed like they were a someone else during those days. No matter what the work was, it was done. They did everything. I felt a little ashamed of myself that I can never imagine myself working so hard for my kids wedding. My sister was nothing less than an Event Manager herself and contributed all her energy and time for the wedding. Everything from selecting the cards to preparing the itinerary to checking the decoration to selecting the wedding dress for me was done by her. I feel humbled seeing my family work so hard to make my wedding a success. No matter what words I say or what gifts I give them or whatever I do for them, there is nothing and absolutely nothing with which I can thank them. I wish and pray that God continue to shower His grace on them with a long and healthy life.

Although, I am a very simple person and wanted a simple wedding for myself with just few and selected members of our family and friends to attend it, I could not say no to the desires of my parents who wanted it to be a grand event. I am not a person in favor of extravagance or things like that but it was just to show respect to my parents that I agreed to do it their way.

P.S: I am sure many of you must have experienced such thing before but for me, it was the first wedding I attended in the last 8 years. And it happened to be my own wedding :) 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Another big fat punjabi wedding ...

Writing anything about a Punjabi wedding would sound cliche´d. Doing everything over-the-top from food to dresses to dancing, to the overall madness. I am sure anyone reading this post would have experienced at least one Punjabi wedding in his/her life or at least read/heard about it. So, let me not bore you with the general stuff. I will try to stick only to the specific event around my D-Day. Although I have always tried to follow the rule of not writing anything from my personal life here but then I have to also respect what George Bernard Shaw once said, "The golden rule is that there are no golden rules". So, let me pen down some incidents which might bring back memories when I read them here 10-20 years from now.

The Prelude: I reached India many days before my religious marriage ceremony so that I could do a court marriage to apply for my wife's visa in advance. There is not much twist in the story as there was in my back. A couple of weeks before leaving for India, I had a slip-disc problem. So, I reached India with pain in my back and my leg. I went to the doctor the next day after landing and he advised me not to bend and sit crossed leg on the floor. As soon as I heard that, I chuckled. And there was an "Yeah right !!" expression in my head. Imagine a wedding without bending to touch the feet of the million of uncle and aunties who would come to greet the newly wed. And a religious wedding without sitting crossed leg? Are you kidding me? Asking the priest to change that part would be like asking Mr. Ahmadinejad to close down his nuclear program. The doctor advised to take precautions.

The Invitations: The preparations started with the distribution of invitation cards. I personally feel that this is the toughest part among all preparations. Making the list, not forgetting anyone, to personally go and invite everyone even though you have not met them for ages and even though they live in the remotest part of your city. A personal visit is a MUST! One night, during the card distribution phase, lying in the bed with a bottle of hot water under my back to ease my back pain, I felt so amused comparing the contrast of life and culture between India and Germany. To visit anyone at his place in Germany would require an appointment to be made well in advance and not just banging into their house at any time of the day as in India. Even after invitation lists being made well in advance, sorted out according to the various regions of the city, according to preference in delivery, it took like forever to distribute them.

The Dresses: One of the things with which I am most amazed in my life is that why my dad has a single cupboard of clothes compared to the three which my mom has, not to mention. An almost similar experience I had with women during wedding. My mom, aunts, sisters, cousins all had a different dress for each meal at least for the last 2 days of the wedding! I am pretty okay with that but even though all of them knew 3 months in advance about the wedding, still most of them were still going for trials till the last moment.On top of that there was enough drama with the tailors. Some of the dresses were not made up to the expectations of the women. There was a lot of crying and moaning. New dresses were then ordered 3 days before the wedding. Aunt from Ambrika calling my Mom at 2 a.m. IST 4 days before the wedding and giving her measurements to order dresses for her, Cousin from Ambrika coming hours before the Shagan ceremony and 5 people going with him to sort out all his dresses for each event of the wedding. I mean, it was complete madness on the dresses front!    

More to come in the next post .....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taking the Turn

I am a person, who like Sheldon Cooper does not like changes. Of course not to his lunatic extents but yes, I like to settle in and soak life as it comes rather than running after it. It is no wonder that I am working at the same place for about last 5 years. As per many of my friends in India, it is a career murder approach. But still, I am fine with what I have at the moment. I am a man of limited needs.

Life had been going on as usual. I had no complaints. I was going to regularly to work. Coming back home on time. Using my spare time for many other activities with which I keep myself busy. Calling home regularly. Going out to occasional dinners with my friends. Traveling whenever I got chance. But suddenly, things happened. Many of them at a time. It was quite overwhelming to see so many changes happening simultaneously with me. On one end of the spectrum, I was embracing the changes and on the other end, I was dead scared. I will not lie. That was September!

Then came December. I got married last month. Life finally took that turn

I had been relatively non emotional and with almost null sentiments since the last 10-15 years of my life. It is not that I was not enjoying life. But somehow, I feel that I had restricted myself and kept many things by myself. Most of all, I feel that I had detached myself from many things and many people like my family. Of course, I used to talk to my parents and my sister and my family but somehow I had avoided getting into that "moh" as we call it in Hindi (Cant find a direct English translation). 

But after taking that turn, things changed, life changed. Like everyone else, I used to love my parents and my family. But now, I have started loving them more. I have started missing them more. The pull of going back to India is at a level like never before. Priorities have changed in life. And truly speaking, I am amazed at myself. I had never imagined that I would change that fast, that priorities will change that fast. And it is not under any pressure, but naturally coming to me.

Even at -5 degrees with my car under a blanket of snow which has be cleaned before I can use it, I am not complaining. Things like this did not happened before!

There is so much I can write right now but I would try to control my feelings. Maybe some other time :)
P.S: Though none of my family members know about this blog but still if they see it, I would like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful time last month and for the super great wedding party!!