Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fighting Negativity

Got some pretty negative news bits today.

First, the thugs in Mumbai are back to their usual anti-constitutional antics again, this time forcing Ms. Anjai Waghmare, the court appointed lawyer for Ajmal Kasab to recuse herself.

Then, Muzaffar sent me info that an RTI activist by beaten mercilessly by the Police in J&K, leading to a broken tooth, and fracture in his jaw. Details at this page (scroll down to "Police beat up RTI activist in Budgam")

And finally, the latest explosion in Guwahati.

Yeah.. pretty negative day I must say.

That said, there are some positive things too, which cheer me up - my tech-savvy mom put up "subscribe using email" and "subscribe using RSS" widgets on her blog, all by herself. And I am proud to be the first by-email subscriber :). You should too.

Also, thanks to A, I re-listened to some songs from Mohit Chauhan of the silk route fame, which led to my compiling a 90s indipop playlist on youtube. Here they are:


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Good Movie, and Mom's Words

First, go watch Duplicity, from the makers of Michael Clayton.
I should not say anything about the movie, as it will spoil the fun, but here is the official trailer, if you want visual enticement.

Seriously, go watch it!

Secondly, it gives me great pleasure that my lovely, witty, and wise mom has really taken to blogging. Check out her latest posted picture, her thoughts on life, and her hindi poem on love. Be sure to leave comments to know how you liked them :).


Friday, March 27, 2009

This Saturday: Never Forget Meets in Mumbai and Pune

Dear friends,
This Saturday, March 28, Never Forget volunteers will meet in Mumbai and Pune.

3.00pm to 6.30pm
The Corinthian, NIBM
Details and Agenda
Facebook Event

5:30 p.m.
Juhu Beach, next to Birla Garden.

Details and Agenda
Facebook Event

If you are in these cities, make it a point to attend. And even if you are not, spread the word among your friends who are.

Seriously. D0 this.

P.S. Consider joining the NeverForget facebook group.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bring on the Intolerance!

There are some days when I am not as positive as I usually am, and this seems to be one of them.

Why? Well, because our wonderful political parties are at it again, supporting candidates who have made it clear what they think of other communities.

Exhibit A: Congress to field Jagadish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, of the 1984 anti-sikh-riots fame.

Exhibit B: BJP fully supports the candidature of Varun Gandhi, of the "its so funny that muslims with beards look like the terrorist bin laden" fame (quote paraphrased).

And of course, both of these parties are using the other's issue to justify their own, and will likely not change their stance. Shame on you, Dr. Singh, and Shame on _you_, Mr. Adwani (actually, not sure if it will have any effect, after what you did in 1992).

And _that_ is what I am pissed about today.

Actually, No. What I am really pissed off about is that the parties KNOW that these intolerant candidates stand a pretty good chance of winning, thanks to the "issues" our junta votes on.

So, what's the way out? Maybe an electorate that votes on the basis of performance rather than emotion. And that brings us to the upcoming meetings of Never Forget, in Mumbai (alt link) and Pune, both on March 28.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Steroids and Podcasts

Some updates on the eye-issue discussed earlier:
1. Blood sample was taken yesterday. Yes sir, yes sir, 2 vials full.
2. This morning, met the doctor. He said blood test confirms this is toxoplasmosis, and that it is a recent infection (a lot of antibodies, not enough memory cells in blood). He again said that salads can also cause this.
3. To reduce the inflammation, he gave me some steroids.
4. To reduce the side-effects of the steroids, he gave me Calcium, Vitamin D, and Potassium tablets.
5. Since I am taking said steroid, I cannot take salt, for fear of water retention in my arms!

To know which steroid I am taking, and for a complete list of its side-effects, see this wikipedia page on Prednisone.

On a lighter note, the 2nd K&K podcast of 2009 with me in it is now online.
Click here to listen to our conversation, where
Animesh continues to tell us about the highlights of his adventures in India in episode 222, and makes some interesting reflections about the way things have changed since he last visited. In true k&k style, we derail on everything from arranged marriages to indian-chinese food to old school teachers to infomercials!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I spy with my Left Eye

In my right eye!

/on antibiotics
/is pretty cool that this parasite can make infected mice seek out cats to be eaten!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Notes from India: Podcast style

This Saturday evening, I had the honor of being the guest at the Katia and KylieMac podcast, and we discussed my recent trip to India.

'nuf said. Go to their post to listen to the streaming audio and download the MP3.

Thanks a lot K&K!!

P.S. Happy 50th birthday, Lijjat!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hippo: The River Horse

It has always intrigued me how the name of the Hippo in Hindi/Urdu is the same as Greek

Engligh: Hippopotamus = Hippos (horse) + Potamos (river)
In Hindi/Urdu: Dariyai Ghoda = Dariya (river) + Ghoda (horse)

and I have always been interested in these animals, but the documentary below (ref: NinjaVideo) enlightened me about some more interesting facts, among others:
1. Hippos kill more humans than any other mammal in Africa!
2. Their sweat is Pink, and apparently is antiseptic and sun-blocking
3. An adult hippo has no known predator, except, of course, man.

'nuf said, watch this!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Live on the Air!

Tonight, I have the honor of being invited by the K&K empire to be a guest in their twice-weekly podcast, Katia and Kyliemac VO.

After all the fun I had the last time, I sure am looking forward to this evening.

And speaking of _looking_, you can catch us LIVE doing our shenaniganary, from 8:30pm Paris Time (GMT+1, so 12:30pm LA Time, 1am India Time) tonight, 14th March, at their broadcast page.

Click here to continue to the live show!


Thursday, March 12, 2009


As I mentioned yesterday, we were going to celebrate Holi today in the group.

Here is how it went down..

From Holi@ARLES

The full slideshow is below.

And yes, there was more Holi at PK's place last night, and one of the picture from that is here (needs facebook account, I think.)

Update: More Paris holi albums here and here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

'tis Holi!!!

and with that existential chant [Holi hai = it's holi!], I have begun the day today for nearly all of the past 28 years.

Last year, we were at Santa Monica beach, and yes, I miss the warmth of LA this year :-|.

That said, this year was not bad either, as I just got back to my desk after a brief color-play with my group-mates S (Indian) and A (Russian!). We will be having a more proper celebration with colors and sweets tomorrow afternoon in the lab, and my (French) boss sounds excited :).

And now, the customary Holi video:

and then, a thoughtful one:

And finally, if you are interested, a bunch of songs for the day

Holi hai!!!

Monday, March 09, 2009

When a Neighbor is Failing

It was two weeks ago, when I was talking to a gentleman whom I have known all my life, and have known to be very open-minded in terms of religious freedom and the _real_ situation between India and Pakistan's people [we are the same people, the enmity is manufactured by the powers-that-be etc.].

As I was asking him about the latest incidents in Pakistan, post attacks on the Sri Lankan cricketers, he said: "well, it is a failed state now".

That shocked me. Sure, we have talked about how things are better in India than Pakistan, but a "failed state" is a very strong term.

And today, I read this excellent piece by M.J.Akbar, whom some have [erroneously IMO] called a "hindu baiter and hindu bahser" and "muslim apologist".
Pakistan was born out of the wedlock of two inter-related propositions. Its founders argued, without any substantive evidence, that Hindus and Muslims could never live together as equals in a single nation. They imposed a parallel theory, perhaps in an effort to strengthen the argument with an emotive layer, that Islam
was in danger on the subcontinent. Pakistan's declared destiny, therefore, was not merely as a refuge for some Indian Muslims, but also a fortress of the faith. This was the rationale for what became known as the "two-nation theory". The British bought the argument, the Congress accepted it reluctantly, the Muslim League exulted.

The Indian state was founded on equality and equity: political equality through democracy, religious equality through secularism, gender equality, and economic equity. Economic equality is a fantasy, but without an equitable economy that works towards the elimination of poverty there cannot be a sustainable state. India, therefore, saw land reforms and the abolition of zamindari. Pakistan has been unable to enforce land reforms. India and Pakistan were alternative models for a nation-state. Time would determine which idea had the legs to reach a modern horizon.


On the day that terrorists attacked Sri Lankan cricketers, I had a previously arranged speaking engagement at a university in Delhi before largely Muslim students. I began with the suggestion that every Indian Muslim should offer a special, public prayer of thanks to the Almighty Allah for His extraordinary benevolence - for the mercy He had shown by preventing us from ending up in Pakistan in 1947. The suggestion was received with startled amusement, instinctive applause and a palpable sense of sheer relief.

In a similar context, Ketan posted this one on mutiny titled "Why are We tolerating Pakistan?".

I wrote a response, which I am reproducing here for your eyes :-).
@Ketan: The answer, in my opinion, is 3 ("because we don't know what to do").

When I think loudly about this issue, the following comes to mind.:

Problem context/assumptions:
  1. The Mumbai attacks [and a whole bunch of past crap] happened because it got support from Pakistan’s establishment, either overtly [Kargil war], or covertly/indirectly [uncontrolled terror camps]
  2. The people of pakistan do not actively want to mess with India. They, like people everywhere, want to lead their lives and raise their kids.
  3. Due to porous borders, if we don’t do something, we stand to lose lives/money

Assumption 1 includes ‘local support’ they got, but I assume that the main ideas for the big attacks still originated overseas
Assumption 2 above rules out options like nuking/war, not to mention the fact that they also have nukes :-).

So the _way to go_ to address the situation there, in my opinion, is
1. Figure out what action hurts their _government/army_. They don’t care if you send back their singers, hell it plays directly into their hands of “Indians are hegemonical, and we should hate them”. Until we hurt their establishment, there is no solving this problem. [focussed trade boycott anyone?]

2. The only way out, in addition to finding the magic bullet in point 1 above, is to _encourage_ the moderates there. Lets face it, a pakistan which is ruled by the Taliban is not in India’s interest. But it is also _not_ in the interest of the moderates there. [I have pakistani friends, and have heard a lot about how they feel threatened by the taliban/moral-police as much as you feel threatened by the Senes]. The only long term way out for us is to help the moderates in Pakistan get a voice. If it means letting some of them even show up on our TV Channels to make their case, so be it.

/ these are initial thoughts, but I hope you see where I am going.
// am not saying that allow any T,D&H from pakistan on Indian TV. But for a change, lets stop focussing on the crazies there who call us “hindu zionists”, and focus on the more moderate voices there. I know it makes for better TRP to give airtime to the former, but the latter are the ones whom _we_ should give visibility to.
/// There are those who would say ‘just secure our borders, close all communications, and wait for it to implode’. I for one would _not_ want a Nuclear armed neighbor to implode, and last time I checked, we were nowhere near securing our borders completely.
//// Reiterating: Lets _not_ break cultural ties. If anything, let their artists perform here. If they have a good welcome, they will go back and share their experiences, which will only work to dispel the lies that their govt. has told their people.

Version 2 of my answer to your question in the title: “Why are We tolerating Pakistan?”
A. Define “Pakistan”. People/govt/army/what? Once we know what we are tolerating, we can focus better on why we are tolerating them :-).

Interesting stuff. What do you think?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Day for Women

'tis March 8th, the International Women's Day.

Happy W-day, all you with two X-chromosomes and therefore a reduced risk of color-blindness ;-).

The times of India did a survey on this occasion and found some interesting facts about the women of India of today. The full article is here.

A glimpse of the article is below:
The poll was conducted exclusively for TOI by leading market research agency Synovate India in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Jaipur in the week leading up to March 8. A total of 1,004 respondents were split roughly equally between the eight cities. About half were aged 20-30 and the rest 31-40. Similarly, the SEC A-B split was roughly even.

The surveys most revealing finding was that only 46% admitted to deciding how their money was spent or invested. Significantly, this proportion was only a little higher - 52% - among working women. Even among single women, only 49% decide what they do with their money. So, who decides for the rest? The parents mainly, for single working women. Husbands mainly, for married women in general and housewives in particular.

The response to a question on who should decide how a woman entertains herself in the evenings also illustrated just how entrenched the patriarchy remains. Only 42% said the woman herself was quite capable of deciding on the issue. While only 3% felt the so-called moral police had any right to stick its nose in the matter, a majority said parents or husbands should decide on the lakshman rekha. Across categories of age, married/single, working/non-working and SEC groups, this proportion was much the same, varying in a narrow band of just 51% to 55%.

I am not quite sure why the women themselves would say that someone else should decide their choice of evening activity. Sure raises doubts about the survey in my opinion.

Comments from women folk reading this blog on the survey?!

P.S. This amazing song clip from Delhi 6 is my ode to you all today - esp. to Neha who blogged about it, and to Waheeda ji and Supriya Pathak, the two more _substantial_ women in Indian cinema :).

[youtube will have more video links, including one to the complete audio of the above song]

P.S. How did _I_ spend women's day? By introducing one to the Indian area in Paris :). Hope you liked it, S!
P.P.S. Women reading this post, please chime in about the survey results I talked about. I am genuinely perplexed with the results.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Watching out for the Watchers

Let's start from a direct quote from the article in question:

Imagine if the FBI could, with only a piece of paper signed by the special agent in charge of your local FBI office, demand detailed information about your private Internet communications directly from your ISP, webmail service, or other communications provider. Imagine that it could do this:

  • without court review or approval
  • without you being suspected of a crime
  • without ever having to tell you that it happened
Further imagine that with this piece of paper, the FBI could see a wide range of private details, including:
  • your basic subscriber records, including your true identity and payment information
  • your Internet Protocol address and the IP address of every Web server you communicate with
  • the identity of anyone using a particular IP address, username, or email address
  • the email address or username of everyone you email or IM, or who emails or IMs you
  • the time, size in bytes, and duration of each of your communications, and possibly even the web address of every website you visit
Finally, imagine that the FBI could use the same piece of paper to gain access your private credit and financial information — and that your ISP, bank, and any other business from which the FBI gathers your private records is barred by law from notifying you.

Now, stop imagining: the FBI already has this authority
This and many other such interesting articles, including those on how to securely delete your files in Windows without installing _anything_ extra are part of the SSD initiative website by the electronic frontier foundation [ref: /.].

Given that the FBI was given crazy powers like those in the quote by the USA PATRIOT act, I wonder what the post-26/11 Indian law looks like.

And in today's nature video, I present before you, the Indonesian Mimic Octopus!

P.S. Thanks for the birthday wishes. I went for dosas with S and P in the evening. Was good :-).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Last year, it was n++, so I thought I should move on to the next letter in the alphabet :).

To answer the biggest question : 28 done, many more to go.
And to answer the second biggest question : not yet. Let's see what this year holds ;-).

Thanks to all those who have called, SMSd, emailed, facebook'd or orkutted me. Also a special thanks to S for his hand-made card and letter, and to S and P who wished me in person at INRIA :).

This post will be short, in part because I need to get back to work, after a weekend spent in bed due to a nasty fever and a painful Wii-shoulder.

Firstly, this post is dedicated to the three other people I know with the same birthday as mine - Ilica, the daughter of Gyanam Bua, Avanti, the little brat of my ex-advisor, and Prof. S.K.Sharma, the inspirational go-getter at ITBHU. Happy birthday you [us] all!

A lot happened to me in the last 365 days, the three most important ones being my [eventual] graduation from the PhD, my relocation to France, and the most recent -- my foray into some _real action_ for the motherland. So far so good, thanks to all your good wishes. Let's see what the next year brings.

And finally, my gift to you today [esp. for the three co-birthdees].

1. A New Scientist report on how humans might be predisposed [pre-created ?] to believe in a "purpose" for everything, and therefore, a creator. Interesting experimental setups, I must say.

2. The oblig cheezy happy birthday song video :).