Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are we really M.A.D ?

Yes, we ARE mad about what 'they' did to our city - and when I say 'they' I'm not referring to the Terrorists - I'm referring to those who allowed this to happen to us.

Still couldn't figure it out? Well, its us !!!

Yeah, right! WE allowed this to happen to us! (To know why I say, this read my earlier post).

Well, now that you (and I) are really MAD - are we really M.A.D - as in Making A Difference ??

Everyday, I receive at least 4-5 emails on how the NGOs are 'getting together' to 'make a difference'. Cool - everyone wants to do something about it and the only thing that seems to be happening is more emails, more meetings amongst fellow-activists (God, I HATE that word - I'd rather be called an alert citizen) and more public meetings being called for and more letters being written to the Administration.

It's almost becoming 'trendy' to be associated with some NGO Group, or the other. It seems like people have even lost faith in the existing NGOs (!) and so are creating new ones - with a combo of pretty much the same guys (say what?)

It's bad enough that the Administration has enough of problems to deal with - and everyday they get 'hit' by a few dozen well-drafted (for the Media) legalese letters asking them for explanations.

Chill guys - let these guys DO their work!! Isn't THIS what we are p!ssed about in the first place? Just think .. if we have each NGO/Activist (aargh!) write to the same 10 Admin guys - how many letters do you think these guys are going to reply to??

Everyday a new PIL seems to be filed, putting additional burden on the already burdened High Courts.

Everyday there is a new public meeting being called for (and the Police are expected to provide security).

Leave the guys alone ... STOP these letters .. STOP these meetings ... (I know I'm going to be VERY unpopular for suggesting all this!)

In the aftermath of 26/11, we seem to mixing up a great many issues here and we will end up confused and defocused.

Terrorism, Internal Security, Good Governance, Poor Administration, Corruption, Politician-Business nexus, etc. are being rolled into one big smelting pot. No wonder that we are angry and want to do 'something fast'...

I've said this before and I'm saying this again ... there is NO instant-coffee solution to this!

It's a long uphill task and needs constant, concerted and consistent efforts over an extended period of time. This is a Marathon .. not a 100m dash. Treat it with respect.

If we are really MAD about what happened, let's use RTI for small things..
~Why is the road not repaired sensibly? Who was the contract awarded to?
~Why is there no complaint book in the booking office of the railway station?
~How many times are the Fire Brigade actually supposed to inspect buildings?
~How many times was a builder penalized for sub-standard material?

Ok .. these are just a few random (and maybe, poor) examples.

Forget the big questions about political-nexus and corruption - ask questions about things that affect YOU - your roads, your surroundings, your railway platform. If each one of the Gateway team sends out 1 RTI application to any one department just once in a month - you will have 12 lakh questions being asked - and asked about specific things - things that affect YOU.

YOU will feel EMPOWERED (Man, I love that word!)

Sure, you may not get all your answers - but someone somewhere in the Administration has started becoming alert - that he/she may be called upon to justify his/her actions - and that in itself will be enough to set the ball rolling for fixing things (I owe this theory to Shailesh Gandhi).

Let's all start taking our voting rights seriously and ensure Voter Registration. The only way we CAN make a difference, is by getting sensible people elected in the chair and taking our democracy seriously.

Let's all volunteer to start a campaign of getting all the eligible people around us to register to vote. Let's facilitate this - circulate forms - post them on various Facebook/Yahoo/Google/Blog sites. Let us start with our own buildings and society complexes - to ensure that everyone around is registered. And when its time to vote, lets arrange for cars to get these guys to reach the polling booth. Let's make it like a party!

Next time when elections are announced, let's give our electorate a choice of deserving candidates. Let's find the right people and make arrangements for funds for them to cover their costs of campaigning. Let's get detailed data on other candidates, compile that and circulate that across their constituency. (Using RTI for this may also work). Let everyone really KNOW these guys, who are standing for elections.

Whoever is elected, let's ensure that they know WE can make a difference and have them thrown out for non-performance. We need to coordinate efforts and set up a 'elected-representative watch' (much like a neighbourhood watch?) and let these guys know that BIG BROTHER is really watching them closely.

Now .. all of this requires time - which not everyone has - but if we were to coordinate our activities sensibly, we can ensure that we have a platform in place - a support structure - so that even those who can commit one hour a week, can DO so .. and feel EMPOWERED and participate in this 'movement' for restoration of 'normalcy' in our lives and restoration of 'faith' in our own strength.

There are enough number of NGOs and Associations and Groups who are doing good work. Let's NOT keep creating more (this may dilute our efforts). Let us find a way of EMPOWERING each individual to Make A Difference.

The issue is not just about Terrorism and Good Governance - it is about participation in the democratic process (for which our fore-fathers fought and died) and about individual EMPOWERMENT.

Think about it!

Let's make a REAL difference...

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Friday, December 12, 2008

New beginnings - why wait??

The fires have been doused - at the Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman House .. and unfortunately, also at a few homes of those who lost their lives. The city seems to be back to its daily grind. The Police, Fire Brigade and ATS are taking a (temporary?) breather. Walking down the streets, it may appear that the city has (limped?) back to normalcy.

The non-stop media coverage is gone, the 'burning' issues have been raised and chewed by all senior journos, the politico-bashing has had its pound of flesh, bloggers have had their share too (present company included!), the masses have lit their candles and vent their spleens, 49-O of the 'Constitution' has been highlighted, facebook/yahoo/orkut have had new Groups sprung up in great fervour, media has started their own awareness 'groups', prayer meetings have been held...

But ... (as the Ad goes) ... 'Next is What'??

Why do I still get the feeling that we haven't even BEGUN to THINK (leave alone ACT) in the right direction?

While people have compiled a list of questions on the holes in the explanations given by the authorities - so many that it would put Swiss Cheese to shame - I feel that going forward, our approach needs to be different ... very, very different.

Tell me .. truly ... What good did the Gateway march really do? Okay, so now I'm going to be VERY unpopular for saying this! But, I request your indulgence for some time before you click on the 'x' to close this window.

Here's what I feel ...
1. We need to get down to EDUCATING the common masses.
2. We need to VOTE in someone, or vote OUT someone.
3. We need to use the RTI to keep the bureaucrats in check.

And here are my reasons for feeling like this.

1. No matter what we say, we (the 'educated' class) still comprise only a minority in India. The literacy rate hovers around 35%. I've even forgotten what is the official definition of 'literate' - which is probably far removed from being 'educated'.

We need to get people to understand that politicians (well, most of them) are nothing but servile, self-serving, opportunists. And this will continue till we do not have people (read: voting public) who do not bring in the right people (leaders?) to run the administration.

We will continuously be held ransom to the types of the goonda-raj, or the dynastic-raj or just Raj (sorry, couldn't help taking a dig at him here).

We will always be 'ruled' - what a sic word - by people who really put their own, and their groups', interests above good governance. And all of us 'good' people - will continue to stay away from politics, since it is such a 'dirty manipulating game'.

2. We MUST Vote - whether literate (educated?) or not - vote, we MUST. No matter that 100,000 people turned up at the Gateway - even if ALL of them go to vote - they would STILL not be able to vote IN (or vote OUT) a candidate of their choice. It is going to take much more than this. The Gateway march and the human-chain link (inspired by the Hands-Across-America of 1986) is just symbolic of public sentiment.

Such gestures at best provide a cathartic outlet for people - and gives them a sense of belonging and also of 'being-in-control' of the situation. God .. very therapeutic, in such troubled times. But to actually expect CHANGE to happen by just this much? ... sorry to burst your bubble - but it's going to take a lot more!

And we must vote for SOMEONE. I hear a lot going around on the 49-O (negative vote issue). And just for the record it is not 'Section 49-O of the Constitution' as is being made out in many blogs. It is "Rule 49 (O) of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961". This allows a legitimate registered voter to register his intention of NOT voting for any of the candidates appearing in the list. In fact, but having to 'register' your name itself is a violation of the 'secret ballot'.

There is NO legislation (or Court ruling) which states that a large (or majority) number of NO-votes would displace the winning candidate. We will not get better governance by continuously THROWING out the bad guys - we will get good governance by BRINGING IN the good guys. Think about it...

3. Having 'educated' the masses and ensuring that we vote in (or out) the right (or wrong) politicians, we must ensure that we keep the bureaucrats in check. RTI is a good tool, if used effectively and wisely, to ensure that none of these guys 'get away' with their wrong doings and their lethargy.

The common man does have this strong weapon to actually rein in the rot. Ok I admit that its implementation has not been as it should be and there are Info Commissioners who are reluctant to penalise the bureaucrats (since most of them belong to the same brotherhood!) But its there - available and we can start making those changes - one baby step at a time.

I'm not naive to know that the above is easier said than done - but we need to start thinking on these lines (IMHO) and change WILL happen.

How long do we keep playing into the hands of sectarian groups and keep blaming religious groups and 'foreign hands' for the mess we are in? What's happening in Orissa, in Bihar, in Assam and in Chandrapur - has got next to nothing to do with a 'foreign hand'. We must stop blaming Pakistan or any other country for our own failings to curtail inland disharmony, violence and criminal activity.

How many more times do we subject peaceful and pious muslims to also wear black bands on Eid to 'prove' their Indianness? How many more times do North Indians have to 'prove' that they are from Mumbai and 'feel' for Maharashtra?

What's next .. the Catholics and Christmas? ... when there were the series of blasts in Mumbai in 1993 - I don't remember any call for the Hindus to wear Black bands during the subsequent Holi?

Let us stop this nonsensical, misdirected effort and get down to doing the things we really need to do! I'm angry .. and upset ... and hurt ... yet, what am 'I' doing about it, besides ranting on my blog, and that too, in my SPARE time??

I have often asked myself, "Would I leave everything and join politics?" ... tough call ... and I have always been guilty of answering "NO!"

Because the system is such that it makes you CHOSE!

Why does one have to make a choice to enter politics?
Why can't he/she do it alongside whatever other responsibilities he/she has?
When will this system change?

In developed countries, ordinary working class citizens can also participate actively in the Political process - and become Senators (without being made to CHOSE between their vocations and politics). Sure, Obama can't dream of doing anything else once he's elected.. but the rest of the Senators can!

When we are able to do this we WILL have a new breed of people in politics. This is what will give rise to a new breed of thinking - which will have the wherewithal to CHANGE the system, to make it more 'people-friendly' - after all, we all DO want a better place to live in, for us and our children.

So while we must douse the external fires, we must keep the inner ones burning brightly, and use it to kindle awakening - and awakening that will empower us to build the foundation blocks for the next 100 years.

Why do we need to wait for a symbolic date or year - let the New Year begin TODAY and let us make a NEW YEAR's RESOLUTION right now!

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Feedback humbly accepted at

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Our weapon is stronger, but ...

The past few days have seen a backlash against the authorities - their failings, their shortcomings, their opportunistic methods, their limitations, their greed ....

We seldom realize that all of this is OUR fault!!

One of the strongest weapons we have - is our VOTE - and we sadly use that the least! It is rightly said, 'We get the Government we deserve!" Again, sad .. but true.

When election time comes around - how many of us really go and vote? Those who do - get the rulers they want - who in turn protect the interests of the voters who voted them in. In turn, the rulers extract their proverbial 'pound of flesh.' It's really that simple - ironic .. but true.

A living example is what happened in the BMC (MCGM) election in the Juhu constituency (in Mumbai city). Adolf D'Souza was elected as an Independent - no political affiliations, no caste affiliations, no family links, no mafia links (!) - nothing, but sheer hardwork and dedication to his credit. Just imagine if that were to happen across the city - do you think that we would have such apathy towards the common man? I don't think so!

Another issue is the Z-category of security being provided to these elected representatives. Z or Y ... I say WHY??

When the average Senator in the US moves around with NO gunman - why does the Indian Minister (or political head-honcho) need these gunmen? .... and why does the Government (meaning.. you and me) pay for this?

These guys walk around with heavy security and never feel the lack of security felt by the common man on the street!

I say we remove all categories of security for all Ministers, etc. (barring just the President and the PM, if at all) and deploy those resources into protecting the common man. I believe we WILL see the difference!

Somehow, if this is done, these guys WILL find the wherewithal to tighten security across the country, terrorist incidents WILL come down, we WILL suddenly discover the much needed political will to do what is necessary.

Or so I believe .. and it can all start with our VOTE.

It's high time we take OURSELVES seriously - and first fulfill OUR responsibility, before pointing a finger at those opportunists.

Let's get our act together - let's ensure we all have ourselves registered to Vote - just as eagerly as we sign up for a Group on Facebook or Hi5 - and I believe we WILL see the change beginning to happen...

Our weapon IS stronger than theirs .. if only we would use it collectively...

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Terrorists did not differentiate...

The tragedy that has struck the lives of the Mumbaikars (is this the official word now?) is saddening, to say the least.

It may seen as attacks on the 'uber rich' section of the city .. but if you check the victim/injured list .. it seems to consist of ordinary citizens!

This brings me to the issue of security of 'Mumbaikars.'

The terrorists did not separate out the Marathi Manoos from the North Indians - did they? They shot at everyone around - and many Maharashtrians were amongst those killed / injured.

Yet where were the so-called (self-appointed) protectors of the Marathi Manoos ?? .. these 'brave' Shiv Sainiks and the (even braver?) MNS guys - who took to the streets and beat up innocent shopkeepers and North Indians .. WHERE WERE THEY?? .... HIDING BEHIND THE NAV-WARIS??

Unlike the bomb-blasts - where the terrorists just planted them, blew it up and scooted - this time around - they were still there. Yet no signs of any comment, statement, or even (false?) bravado from these opportunistic groups - who take to the streets only for their own political mileage. SHAME ON THEM.

They did not even come forward to volunteer in the rescue ops. SHAME ON THEM.

When Raj Thackeray's arrest was announced and even subsequently - they showed their full 'strength' by taking to the streets and downing shutters and threatening the govt of 'consequences' (Ha - fat lot of strength they have). SHAME ON THEM.

The key lies in educating the poor - making sure they are not taken advantage of by ANY political group - so that th next time anyone calls for a 'bandh' .. they should 'bandh karo' (slam) their doors on the faces of these Self-serving, opportunistic, politicians. SHAME ON THEM.

The next they call for a 'rasta roko' ... people should throw them on to the streets. SHAME ON THEM.

I'm hurt, angry, sad, upset, shaken and yet so disgusted with the whole scenario - and have not cared a damn for being 'politically correct' in this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Words of Wisdom - 4

Just finished reading "Leadership Wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari" by Robin Sharma. Actually finished reading it for the nth time! This book is about one can become a great Leader and provides practical, sensible Leadership sense.

Actually, I couldn't wait to finish it so that I could share the lines from the book, that moved me the most.

Besides his own wonderful fundas, he has also quoted various other people and I have mentioned some of those as well.

Here goes...

1. Immediately before a great victory, one will often experience some form of difficulty. The key is to maintain your focus and keep on believing.

2. 'To be what we are and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.' - Robert Louis Stevenson

3. Leadership is not about managing things but about developing people.

4. The visionary leader is one who has learned how to focus on the summit while clearing the path.

5. Purpose is the most powerful motivator in the world.

6. Great leadership precedes great followership.

7. Too many vision statements hang on office walls rather than in live in human hearts.

8. Visionary leaders care more about doing what's right than appearing intelligent. Leadership is not about popularity, it's about integrity. It's not about power, it's about purpose.

9. People who feel superb about themselves generate superb results.

10. The Law of Diminishing Intent says that the longer you wait to implement a new idea or strategy, the less enthusiasm you will have for it.

11. 'Principles are to people, what roots are to trees. Without roots, trees fall when they are thrashed with the winds. Without principles, people fall when they are shaken by the gales of existence.' - Carlos Reyles, Spanish philosopher.

12. When a student is ready, the teacher appears.

13. 'It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.' - Seneca.

14. Every time you avoid doing right, you fuel the habit of doing wrong.

15. Stop listening with the intent to respond. Instead, listen with the intent to understand.

16. Let rewards and recognitions flow freely. Remember, you always get more of what you reward.

17. Nothing motivates and focuses the mind better than a clear purpose.

18. Have the wisdom to understand that failure is essential to success.

19. If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid a hundred days of sorrow.

20. 'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.' - Confucius

21. Doing the same things every day will not deliver new results. To change the results you are getting, you must change the things you are doing.

22. The arrow that hits the bull's eye is a result of one hundred misses.

23. Knowledge that remains unapplied is worthless. Lasting success comes only through acting on what you know, putting it into practice.

24. Your mind can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. Don't let the weeds take over. Manage your inner morale. Assume full responsibility for attitude control. As you sow, so shall you reap.

25. 'Nurture your minds with great thoughts for you will never go higher than you think.' - Disraeli

26. The quality of your leadership can be ultimately traced back to the quality of your choices.

27. 'There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently, that which should not be done at all.' - Peter Drucker

28. 'The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.' - Confucius

29. Visionary leaders have the wisdom to understand that if you don't lead your time, it will lead you.

30. 'A plan relieves you of the torment of choice.' - Saul Bellow

31. If you don't act on life, life will act on you.

32. If your priorities don't get put into your planner, other peoples' priorities will get put into your planner.

33. It's not what you know that matters. Success comes from acting on what you know.

34. The greatest battles we fight take place within ourselves.

35. The tougher you are on yourself, the easier life will be on you.

36. 'Perhaps the most valuable result of education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.' - Thomas Henry Huxley

37. Let time be your servant rather than your master.

38. There's nothing wrong in making a mistake. Mistakes allow us to mature and become wiser. But there IS something wrong in constantly making the same mistakes. It shows a complete lack of wisdom.

39. The truth of the matter is that success is an inside job. Excellence begins within. Market leadership begins with self leadership.

40. Failing to devote time to the discipline of self-renewal is like saying you are so busy driving that you don't have time to stop for gas.

41. Don't be so busy striving to make a living that you forget how to live a life.

42. Stop wishing for fewer problems and start searching for greater wisdom.

43. The type of leader and the kind of person you will be five years from now will result from two primary influences: the books you read and the people you associate with.

44. It's not what you get out of books that makes the difference - it's what books bring out of you.

45. The person who doesn't make time for exercise must eventually make time for illness.

46. Never settle for mediocrity when you can attain mastery.

47. The Purpose of Life Is a Life of Purpose.

48. What makes greatness is beginning something that does not end with you.

49. Be ashamed to die until you have scored a victory for mankind.

50. When you were born, the world rejoiced while you cried. Your mission must be to live your live in such a way that when you die, the world cries while you rejoice.

Well, I hope that a few of these gems have struck a chord with you, as they did with me. It’s worth going through the entire book (just 250 pages) to get the real feel of it.

Anyway, have a great life .. and become a 'visionary leader' in your own right.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wisecracks - Part 2

I got very encouraging feedback to Part 1 .. so here is the sequel .. I hope it doesn't flop (like most sequels do!)

1. It is proven that children hold a marriage together, while tearing the house apart.

2. She serves him blended coffee - yesterday's and today's.

3. Girl to boy, "You remember our last date? Well ...that's what it was!"

4. My Doctor said I needed a complete change .. so I changed the Doctor.

5. I have read so much about the bad effects of drinking, that I gave up reading.

6. It takes a lot of experience ... for a girl to kiss like a beginner ;)

7. Some movies would be better if they ... shot less footage ...and more actors.

8. Today, the pianist is going to play like he never played before .. in tune!

9. One kid to another, "See I told you, tomatoes don't bounce."

10. Its funny how most girls wait until the kiss is over ... before they slap the man's face.

11. One friend to another, "I heard you applied for a government job. What are you doing now?" Reply, "Now? .. Nothing .. I got the job!"

12. Overheard at a bus stop..."I heard your sister got married. Who's the lucky man?" Pat came the reply, "My father!"

13. In the gym..."I heard your wife is on an onion diet. Did she LOSE anything?" Husband..."Yes, 5 kgs and 4 friends."

14. Girl to boy: "Do you believe in Hate at first sight?"

15. I heard you like to travel, so ... why don't you?

16. If you ever need me, please DO hesitate to call!

17. A Fine is a Tax for doing wrong. A Tax is Fine for doing well!

18. Before marriage .... a girl has to kiss her man to hold him; after marriage ... she has to hold him to kiss him.

19. I was trying to get a new car for my wife; but nobody had such an exchange offer.

20. She hates me so much, she made me a birthday cake and put the candles INSIDE it.

Let me know which ones you liked best :) .. and there may even be a Part 3 ...ok .. ok .. I'll stop ... I can already hear the groans ;)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Teacher's Day - A Realization

It's Teacher's Day today .. and a time to remember the ones who taught you.

That's the least one can do .. respect the one's who taught you how to handle this funny thing called life. Yes, my definition of 'teacher' transcends the obvious school/college teacher.

I believe that one can have 'teachers' at different stages of one's life - I know I've had many ... and who knows how many more to come!

Though in School, I was fortunate to have some really good teachers - but there were a few who had a lasting impression on me, some of them immediately, and some much later - whose real worth I have begun to realize only now, when I see my wife teach my kids...

Mind you, these are not the ones who were the best teachers for me, academically - in fact some of them never taught me a single subject ! Its just that they left a lasting impression on me - some for academics, some for other reasons.

I thank my Teachers, named below in no particular order:
Mrs. Lulu Fernandes
Mr. Rudy Fernandes
Mr. Rasik Shah
Mrs. Yvonne Pinto (nee Fernandes)
Mrs. Cleta Vallace (nee Correa)
Mrs. Lata Munjal
Mr. Ambani (not to be confused with any of the Reliance family!)

Teachers, here's a big thanks for everything, especially for teaching me lessons to equip me to deal with life - and I am continuously striving to do my best in whatever I do. Hope I have done some justice to your efforts.

I'm aware that naming a few, may 'upset' the others, but, hey, I've never always been 'politically correct' - and believe in standing up and speaking my mind.

There have been other teachers who were really good at their work - but somehow, when I look back, I find that my memories keep gravitating towards these.

Out of the education system, I have had many other teachers - my mother (in the ways of life), my father (in the ways of work), another close friend of mine, my wife, my kids, my watchman, my sweeper, my blog-commentors ... yeah, sure I learn from them everyday ..

And by the way .. sorry Teachers, but I know that there's no word like 'commentors' - at least not yet :)

Keep learning, and keep growing ... and here's to all my teachers - a big THANK YOU!

Well, and that's how I feel ...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Jai Ganesha - My obeisance !

It's festival time here in Mumbai! Though I'm not very 'religious' in the strict sense of the term - I would rather consider myself as being 'spiritual'.. and there's a subtle difference there ;)

Anyway, here's my bit to pay obeisance to the most 'people-friendly' God.... Lord Ganesha.. a.k.a. Ganapati.

I guess, he's the most popular Indian God outside of India. From the many foreigners I've met, they seem fascinated at the concept of the 'Elephant God'.

Also, every time anyone would recite the famous Ganesh Mantra, I always wondered what that meant, so I went and found out - and here's the translation for those who are also curious.

"Vakratunda Mahaakaaya Suryakotee Sama Prabha Nirvighnam kuru mey Deva Sarva kaaryeshu Sarvadaa"


"O Lord Ganesha of Large body, curved trunk, With the brilliance of a million suns, Please make all my work free of obstacles, always."

(OK - I know the Internet is public domain - but I would like to acknowledge that I got this from and that may not even be the official and actual translation - that was a disclaimer for those who feel I have committed blasphemy!)

The image is, by far, one of my favourite pics of Ganesha.

May Lord Ganesha give you all, the strength to face your obstacles better .. and if you think that He's gonna remove them you .. well think again .. He only helps those who help themselves, right?

So while you keep PRAYING, make sure you are also DOING the right things - that way you stand a BETTER chance of beating the odds against you..

Happy festivities ...

Well, and that's how I feel...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wisecracks - Part 1

I have often come across many wisecracks and one-liners at many blog posts and thought of contributing my tuppence worth also...

So here's Part 1 of my collection of Gags, Wisecracks and Witticisms. Hope you enjoy them, I sure did, putting it together.

1. He got a letter from his estranged wife.. "Hi Ed, I missed you yesterday. Come back home again, and let me have another shot. Love, Erma."

2. While out with the car one day, she ran across a few old friends...may they rest in peace!

3. Scotch is a wonderful drink. It not only makes you see double, it makes you feel single!

4. Signboard in a shop..."God help those who help themselves"

5. Mr. Smith finally had his wife crawling on her hands and knees last night. She kept shouting, "Come out from under that bed, you coward!"

6. She hated when he referred to her as his 'awfully wedded wife.'

7. She married a Sailor, because she wanted to have children and rear admirals.

8. The difference between a smart girl and a good-looking girl: one has to make up her mind, the other has to mind her make-up.

9. The theatre critc, while writing a review: "I can't remember the author's name, but his farce is familiar."

10. There's a new Directory being compiled in Hollywood, it's going to be named, "Who's Whose."

11. The first thing a pilot learns to control is ... the air hostess!

12. She always wears a faint perfume. One sniff - and you'll faint.

13. A fool and his money are soon parted .. but boy, what memories!

14. A diamond can cut through the hardest metal, and it's not too bad for softening women, either.

15. Liquor improves with age, the older you get the more you like it.

16. At breakfast the priest told the General's pretty wife, who was unwell, "I was praying for you last night." She batted he eyelids and replied, "You silly man...all you had to do was call!"

17. This country is full of willing people. Just a few willing to work .. and the rest willing to let them.

18. The best time to visit Paris is .. between your 18th and 25th birthday!

19. Joe and his fiancee are always together. They're what you call, insufferable.

20. Her brother said, "I remember when we were kids, my sister used to play with dolls and I used to play with soldiers. Now we're all grown up and things are reversed.."

More later...

Let me know which ones you liked best :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

My latest Fav Music Video

Just saw 'I wanna be a Rockstar" by Nickelback.

Great video!

Enjoy, here's the link on Youtube!

... and well, if you like to singalong (like I do),
here are the lyrics!

I'm through with standing in line
to the clubs i'll never get in
It's like the bottom of the ninth
and I'm never gonna win
This life hasn't turned out
quite the way I want it to be

(tell me what you want)

I want a brand new house on an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough for ten plus me

(yeah,so what you need)

I'll need a, a credit card that's got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club
At thirty-seven thousand feet

(Been there done that)

I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My own star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between cher and
James Dean is fine for me

(So how ya gonna do it?)

I'm gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair and change my name

'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
Live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny with her bleach blonde hair
and well..
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up a**holes
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free

(I have a quesadilla... on the house)

I'm gonna dress my a**
with the latest fashion
Get a front door key to the Playboy mansion
Gonna date a centerfold that loves to
blow my money for me

(So how ya gonna do it?)

I'm gonna trade this life
For fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair
And change my name

'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
Live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny with her bleach blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary in today's who's who
We'll get you anything with that evil smile
Everybody's got a drug dealer on speed dial
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

I'm gonna sing those songs that offend the censors
Gonna pop my pills from a pez dispenser
Get washed-up singers writing all my songs
Lip sync 'em every night so I don't get 'em wrong

Well we all just wanna be big rockstars
Live in hilltop houses drivin 15 cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
In the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny with her bleach blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary in today's who's who
We'll get you anything with that evil smile
Everybody's got a drug dealer on speed dial
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar
Hey hey I wanna be a rockstar

Saturday, August 16, 2008

62nd I-Day after 61 years, right?

Every time there is a festival or an occasion and we have a barrage of emails/sms-es that we are 'spammed' with (by the way, should we still call it 'spam' - when we're bombarded with unwanted and unwarranted sms-es??)

In fact, this year, instead of being a mute spectator and at the the 'receiving end'; I decided to initiate a message and 'spam' everyone else.

Here's what I sent out...

"Have we really built the country that people died for 61 years back? If NOT what are YOU doing about it? Let's not stop at 'Good' and go for .. 'Great'! Don't just read this SMS & stop...DO
something!!.. & well, a Happy Independence Day, anyway! - Sandeep Ohri"

I was attending my kids' school function when this came to mind and it took me less than a minute to come up with this and send it out.

Within seconds I received a response (make that responses) I thought it may be a good idea to just document these - after all a blogpost will survive a lot more than the stored sms on my cell.

I have reproduced them here (in toto, typos and all) and since most of the co-spammers are my friends, their identities have been protected...

1. Dis is sumthng u hav written?

2. :) Bhes badla par des kab badlayenge. Happy Independence Day.

3.'Falak ki zid hai jaha bijliyan girane ke, hamein bhi zid hai waheen ashiyana baanane kee'. Fight against terrorism. HAPPY 61TH INDEPENDENCE DAY JAI HIND.

4. This day reminds of the liberty for all that still eludes. Let's keep doing our bit to assert our liberty. We shall overcome.

5. Freedom in the Mind. Faith in the words.. Pride in our Hearts and memories in our Souls..Let's salute the nation on 61st Independence Day! Vande Mataram.

6. Thank you and wish you happy indipendence day. Give me a call,will join you for a good cause. Regds.

7. No more words. :-):-) let our works speak. :-). You are absolutely right.

Go on .. feel free to add some more..I know you are dying to :)

And just for the record, its our 62nd Independence Day after completing 61 years of independence.. do the maths. Last night, Sagarika Ghosh on CNN-IBN very boldly stated it is the 61st independence Day .. while the scroll at the bottom of her screen said, 'nation celebrates 62nd Independence Day".

I began to wonder whether I had committed a faux pas in my morning sms, so I sat back and did the calculations. 15-8-1947 was our 1st I-Day, then on 15-8-1948 we had our 2nd I-Day after completing the 1st year ..and so on... Therefore, on 15-8-2008 we are celebrating our 62nd I-Day after completing 61 years...right?

Well, 61st or 62nd, the fact remains, what have we really achieved? Have we really done justice to the efforts of those who actually DIED for this?? Think, just think... what were they thinking of when they actually took a bullet for the country's freedom? ..what was the thought in their minds and in their heads, when they gasped their final breath?

I was in dual minds when I heard the children at the school make the (mandatory?) laudatory speeches in English, Hindi, Marathi & Sanskrit, extolling our nation's achievements (incl our latest poster boy, Abhinav Bindra).

I realised, I had done the same when I was in school - and actually believed that our country had been progressing at a fast pace. But as the age of innocence gave way to age of disillusion and then the age of reasoning and now the age of understanding, I really wonder whether we should 'fix' this or not.

Should those children have been corrected and told that we are a nation suffering far more ills than our achievements? Should their 'bubble' be burst? Should we take away their zeal and their
innocence? Should we tell them about the harsh realities that they are going to face as soon as they step out of their cocooned comfort zone? Should we tell them about the big-bad-world of politicians and underworld dons and how they muscle their way around?

Or should we let them hang onto their dreams of a resurgent India, the India that has produced the likes of ...Rabindranath Tagore, Sachin Tendulkar, Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams (?), Abhinav Bindra, Subhash Chandra Bose, Nehru, Sardar Patel (notice how the post-Independence ones are mostly non-political?)

Woke up at 6am and started typing... I am still in a dilemma .. and just can't stop thinking of it!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Electricity from Nuclear Power – A layman’s research!

Ok .. so the government won the Trust Vote (amidst accusations, mayhem and a general mockery of the Indian democratic system) - but what does that mean to you and me and the rest of the (unsuspecting) masses?

According to me there are 3 main issues ..
1. Is the cost of electricity from a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) really cheaper?
2. Is Nuclear Power better and ‘cleaner’?
3. Does India have to depend on the US (only) for Uranium?

Hey, I said, “according to ME” .. ok? This is MY blog…and I have the right to rant here :)
Anyway, I found no ready answers in our print & television media, as these guys are more obsessed with sensationalizing the shameful proceedings that went on.

So, I decided to spend some time Googling (is this now a valid word??) on another wet 26/7 in Mumbai, and here’s what I found.

Ok, here’s a caveat - I’m NOT an expert and there may be mistakes, but I have tried to summarize what I have understood from my readings across the Internet.

Here goes…

Question: Is electricity from Nuclear Power, cheaper?
My Answer: YES

From what I understand, when speaking of costs, there are two types: Internal and External. Internal costs are those which are incurred directly while generating energy, while External costs are those which are incurred in relation to health and the environment. External costs are quantifiable, but not built in directly into the cost of electricity.

In terms of Internal costs, Nuclear energy incurs about one-tenth of the costs of coal, so that makes it really cheap. And here’s the clincher, if you add up the (quantifiable) External costs, the cost from Coal increases by another 100% and that from Gas, increases by another 30%, making these two even more costly – and all of this is without adding the costs of global warming (since this is not quantifiable yet).

At first glance, the costs of setting up (and fuelling) a NPP seem much higher. However, when costs are declared for Nuclear energy, these always HAVE to include the entire cycle of costs (spent fuel management, plant decommissioning and final waste disposal), whereas, the costs for other technologies need not account for these directly.

So though, at first glance, such figures may seem higher, when you actually take into account carbon-dioxide emissions, waste disposal, etc., Nuclear energy is actually cheaper.I came across one official study done in Finland in August 2003 which compared all the costs (fixed, running and emission) of a Nuclear, Coal & Gas Plant. The final figures worked out to Nuclear 23.7 euro cents per MWh, Gas 39.2 cents and Coal 44.3 cents.

The study also analyzed the effect of the doubling of basic Fuel prices. If Fuel prices doubled, the cost of Nuclear energy would rise only 9%, but energy from Coal would rise 31% and that from Gas would rise 60% !! This is because the cost of Fuel in a NPP is relatively smaller percentage than the cost of Fuel in a Coal or a Gas power plant.

Next Question: Is Nuclear Power better and ‘cleaner’?
My Answer: YOU BET!

Coal-powered plants use 3,200 Million Tonnes of Coal each year to produce 38% of the world’s electricity. NPPs use only 61,000 Tonnes of Uranium for 16% of the world’s electricity.

Coal is generally used in the country where it is mined and sometimes has to be transported over a large distance to the Power plants, which further requires energy (in transportation) and causes greenhouse gas emissions (on the way).

In comparison, very little Uranium is required to do the same job. Consider the following facts:
1. A 1000 MWe NPP requiring 27 tonnes of fresh fuel per year is an average of about 74 kg per day.
2. A 1000 MWe Coal plant needs 8600 Tonnes of coal to be delivered every day.
3. Nuclear Plants have a Carbon Dioxide emission rate of 16 g/kWh, while Gas Plants emit 356g and Coal Plants emit a whopping 891g.
4. Every 22 Tonnes of Uranium used, we avoid an emission of 1,000,000 Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide, relative to Coal.
5. When the electricity comes from Coal, 1 kiloWatt hour (kWh) of it results in about 1 Kg of Carbon Dioxide being emitted.

Last Question: Does India have to depend on the US (only) for Uranium?
My Answer: NO !

Uranium is a slightly radioactive metal that occurs throughout the earth's crust. It is about 500 times more abundant than gold and about as common as tin. Over half of the world's production of uranium from mines is from Canada (23%), Australia (21%) and Kazakhstan (16%). USA does only 4% of the production.

In 2008, the world would require 64,615 Tonnes of Uranium only for NPPs generating electricity. The largest requirement is of the US 29%, followed by France 16%, Japan 12%, Germany 5%, Russia 5%, South Korea 5%.

India’s requirement right now is a miniscule 2% at 978 Tonnes if its 17 reactors operate at full capacity. Presently, on account of the lack of supply, many of these are operating below capacity, some at around 50%.

The combined installed capacity in India stands at 3779 MWe which generates about 16 billion kWh of electricity - a mere 2.5% of our total electricity generated presently.

India also has huge reserves of Uranium - about 56,000 Tonnes of it! But this is of poor quality of ore which cannot really be used for the NPPs and hence we need to buy this from other countries (Australia, Canada & Kazaksthan). Now these other countries will not supply it to us, unless we are part of a global agreement that agrees to not use this purchased Uranium for military purposes.

So, if we sign the agreement with the US, we can get to buy the Uranium from other countries, to fuel our NPPs and use it for civilian (non-military) purposes.

Well, as I see it, it seems to be a win-win situation! See, India produces about 430 Tonnes of good quality, usable Uranium per year. Most of this goes to the NPPs and maybe some part, towards our own military purpose.

In future, the situation will change as we have another 25 Nuclear reactors (planned and/or under construction) taking our capacity from 3779 MWe to 20,115 MWe. This is almost 5 times our present requirement. Now WHERE are we going to get the Uranium to Fuel this if we don’t sign the agreement!

Obviously, when we started off planning for these reactors, the government KNEW that we cannot produce this Uranium within the country and we would HAVE to purchase this from outside… so why create a hungama NOW when the time to sign the Agreement has come?

If we didn’t want to give up our so-called ‘nuclear-independence,’ why did the Government plan to construct so many Nuclear Reactors in the first place?? It’s pretty obvious we didn’t have the Uranium then, and we don’t have the Uranium now!!

Now, here’s an interesting bit of news. NPPs can also use a mineral called Thorium – of which India has a whopping 319,000 Tonnes of, which is almost one-fifth of the world’s reserves. Here’s the good news. All of this is usable for NPPs, after some amount of processing, which we already DO even now.

So here’s my take .. let’s sign the Agreement, buy the Uranium from outside for electricity generation purposes and lets process our own Thorium for generating Uranium for our military purposes ..

Hey, doesn’t that sound too simple ?? So why the hell didn’t someone just tell it to us like this??

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oct 2006-Jul 2008: It's been a long struggle...

It was in October 2006, I used to run a small scale unit in Mumbai and I received my first escalated electricity bill from Reliance Energy.

(For those who came in late... my bill went from Rs. 210 for 11 units to Rs. 10,800 for 14 units!!)

It was then that I woke up and smelt the coffee .. oops .. the mud, about how Reliance Energy had been hoodwinking its consumers.

Ever since then and with the help and guidance of Mr. Rakshpal Abrol (President of the Bombay Small Scale Industries Association) I was made aware of the depths of this bottomless chasm. He warned me of the gravity of the situation, but I was determined to 'do something' - after all this was 'wrong'!!

Since then, I jumped in and ...

... started 'blogging' (this one here and mirrored on Rediff iland and then later also Bijleepower).
... formed (and still Moderate) the Bijlee Yahoo Group
... started an Online Petition for removal of monopoly in Mumbai's electricity supply
... sent out many emails (more in frustration and desperation) to demystify the electricity issue
... participated in public meetings on creating awareness
... became the Moderator of the Electricity section at
... was hit by threatening Legal Notices by REL
... initially refused to pay their illegal bills (later relented in the interest of feeding my staff)
... initiated a legal battle with REL in the Consumer Court (after they chopped off my electricity)
... made presentations at MERC's public hearings
... was interviewed by TV & newspapers on the issue (some called me 'Power Activist', Ha!)
... made presentations at the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity at New Delhi
... got REL penalised for not turning up at the Tribunal hearing !
... was referred to in many of MERC's Orders. See here (pgs 12/24/25) and here (pgs 39/40)
... and even helped file a case against REL in the Supreme Court

There was a time when people have come up to me and told me, 'Don't take "panga" with the Ambanis.' Well, it was never personal and so I was never 'afraid' ... he is a businessman in his own right and I have my rights as a Consumer.

This journey has by no means ended (hey, life is a journey .. to sound cliched) and things will go on. I have moved on from my small scale unit into a challenging corporate environment. People have become more aware of the electricity situation ... and of their rights ...

And now in July 2008, the Supreme Court has given its verdict on the interpretation of Tata Power's Distribution License .. that Tata Power can also supply electricity to retail consumers in Mumbai.

Thus paving the way, once again, for competition in this sector and giving me a sense of accomplishment-of-sorts.

Sure, we have a long way to go, but I think we have set the ball rolling and now there are enough people who have been made aware of the situation.

Looking back, I have learnt a lot from this experience and the point of this entire blog is that if you feel deep down you are right about something, its worth pursuing (and pursue it like hell).

The results may seem elusive at first and even impossible - but if you are on the right track, the small spark that you carry can actually become a forest fire !

Do not underestimate your own capabilities. When this happened, I was a complete novice (I believe, 'newbie' is the right word ... or is it 'noob'?) in the ways of the Internet - but now I can get myself around.

Don't give up ... Believe in yourself ... Take on the world ... and whether you get the results you desired or not .. YOU will be a different person !!

Cheers !!

End note: It's Guru Purnima on July 18th .. I would like to pay my respects to my Guru, Mr. Rakshpal Abrol, who taught me the ropes in this entire struggle of mine. Sir, with folded hands I pay my humble respect to you. Thank you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sonia vs. EC vs. Constitution of India

Just wanted to contribute my tuppence worth to the ongoing issue of Sonia Gandhi accepting the "Order of Leopold" Belgium's 2nd highest Civilian honour, in Nov 2006.

The news items appear here ... TOI, HT, CNN-IBN.

It seems this Belgian award has also been given to Marshall Tito, General Patton and President Eisenhower as well - and hence, its a big deal. Full list here at Wikipedia.

Now the issue was brought to light on a Petition made by someone (from Kerala? - not that it makes a difference which State - but Kerala DOES have the highest literacy rate in the country!).

The controversy arises on account of the fact (?) that the acceptance of the award implies "allegiance" to that country (in this case: Belgium) - and if that is true, then its a problem - as Sonia Gandhi is a Parliamentarian and a "Citizen" by marriage - as per the Constitution of India.

Well, we all know that the Constitution is SUPREME. No Court can interfere with what is written in the Constitution - they can only attempt to interpret - not modify, alter or add to the meanings of the Articles within the Constitution.

So what DOES the Constitution say ..

Here is Article 18:
"18. Abolition of titles - (1) No title, not being a military or academic distinction shall be conferred by the State.
(2) No citizen of India shall accept any title from any foreign State.
(3) No person who is not a citizen of India shall, while he holds any office of profit or trust under the State, accept without the consent of the President any title from any foreign State.
(4) No person holding any office of profit or trust under the State shall, without the consent of the President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or under any foreign State."

Here is Article 102:
"Disqualification for membership -(1) A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament-
(a) If he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder;
(b) If he is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
(c) If he is an undischarged insolvent;
(d) If he is not a citizen of India, or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance or adherence to a foreign State;
(e) If he is so disqualified by or under any law made by the Parliament."

Also, check these articles by S Gurumurthy, here and here.

Ok, so now tell me .. should the EC have issued a Notice, or not??

In my opinion, if the award entailed some kind of "allegiance" to Belgium, then I guess it is justified.

And if so, why should Sonia Gandhi be "above" the Constitution?

THINK ... THINK ... THINK ....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Patriotic Songs .. or Inspirational Songs ??

Just an observation ..

Come Jan 26th (and also Aug 15th, for that matter) and we have schools holding Patriotic Song Contests.

I attended one such competition and was surprised that out of the 4 songs that were sung, only 2 could be classified as "Patriotic."

The others were just, pure "inspirational" and "motivating" - at best.

Guess who won ?

The teams that sang the really "Patriotic" ones - came 3rd and 4th !!

I guess its more the fault of the Teachers and Judges who didn't make it clear to the children as to which songs were really classifiable as Patriotic.

Which also got me thinking .. just how many Patriotic Songs do we really have? The only ones I know seem to be the ones I have seen in movies at some time or the other.

Coincidentally, the same day HT Cafe (Mumbai, Jan 26th) ran a cover story on Patriotic songs!!

Being the good samaritan that I am (Ha ! Modesty does seem to have taken a back-seat!) I thought of reproducig that list - and have added some others that I remembered.

Here goes ...
1. Aye mere pyare watan (Kabuliwalla)
2. Jahaan daal daal pe (Sikander-e-Azam)
3. Vande Mataram (Anand Math version)
4. Aye Watan, Aye Watan (Shaheed)
5. Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna (Shaheed)
6. Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon (Haqueeqat)
7. Zindagi Maut Na Ban Jaye (Sarfarosh)
8. Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyaara Hai (Roja)
9. Yeh jo des hai tera (Swades)
10. Rang de Basanti (Rang de Basanti)
11. Dil diya hai Jaan bhi denge (Karma)

Feel free to send in more suggestions .. so that come Aug 15th, schools can refer to this list !

Jai Hind !

Friday, January 25, 2008

Can we accuse MFs of "insider trading" ??

Just read the article, “When MFs raise capital & a stink” (Economic Times, Mumbai, Pg 15) by Gaurav Pai & Muthukumar K.

Very interesting stuff ..

The mutual fund companies ofetn invest in their own Group companies - but of course, SEBI has a limit, which they do not cross ;)

Did you know...

1. Reliance Mutual Fund has invested Rs. 1,726 crores of YOUR money, in its own R-ADAG group companies like Adlabs, Rel Comm and Rel Energy?

2. ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund has invested Rs. 678 crores of your money in its own ICICI Bank?

3. SBI Mutual Fund has invested Rs. 459 crores of your money in its own SBI?

4. Birla Sun Life has invested Rs. 251 crores of your money in Hindalco, Grasim and Idea Cellular?

HDFC Mutual Fund seems to be the most prudent! It has invested only Rs. 74 crores of your money in HDFC and HDFC Bank. And the article state that Tata MF and Kotack AMC have a miniscule investment in thier own Group companies.

Kinda makes you think, right ?

Shouldn't there be some rule on "insider trading" ... because at the Top management level - these guys are the SAME !! Are you listening SEBI ??

Unless, you actually believe that the Head of Reliance Mutual Fund DOES NOT know what the rest of the Group companies are up to .. yeah, sure .. !

And we wonder why Reliance MF has become the No. 1 MF with the highest AUM (Assets Under Management) ...

Coincidentally, at the same time the R-ADAG group companies' market capitalisation has almost doubled in the last one year...