Sunday, June 21, 2009

There is only a finite amount of time before a choice is made. Choices made are only satisficing, which is natural. People make conscious choices. You chose one thing over others. I chose something else. When you advise me to settle down in the US, or when I ask you to move to India, we are talking the same amount of sense. Or nonsense. A choice might lead to more success than projected; or one might grow to regret the choice. Consequences are known a posteriori. That is also pointless. What really matters is that one has/had choices, and one makes a conscious choice by taking time, thinking hard, discussing with people that matter, seeking divine intervention, whatever else. You made yours that way. I made mine that way. When that is the case, let's not bother about comparing our choices. Choice. That's that.

One does not create/organize/make priorities. One does not prioritize. One simply has priorities. As David Allen says in GTD, and I agree, "you don't manage priorities—you have them." Making a lot of money might not be mine, taking risks might not be yours. Let's not start questioning each other's priorities. It's stupid.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Some steps to improve the quality of life in cities

These are based on Bangalore, but can be generalized to other cities in India. Some of these are simpler to implement than the others. You may want to add more in the comments section.
  1. Remove bus-stops after signals. This is one of the stupidest things that you will see. You just start making a move as the signal turns green only to get stuck behind a couple of busses that make a stop at the bus-stop immediately after the signal!
  2. Move bus-stops to service lanes and get rid of them wherever possible. Maintain a minimum distance between bus-stops (whatever is the standard). Push bus-stops to the service lane, if there is one. At least, push them as much away from roads as possible.
  3. Get rid of "service lanes". Make them part of an extended road.
  4. Do not give permission to any building that does not have self-sufficient parking space. Probably rules exist regarding this. But they really need to be followed. If you ever had the misfortune of going to Manipal hospital, you'll be amazed at the near total lack of a parking space. How could anyone have commissioned a hospital whose plan does not include parking space corresponding to its size? This rule should be strictly applied to establishments of all sizes.
  5. Do not let people embezzle real estate for god's sake! The simplest way to embezzle public land anywhere in India is to do so in the name of god. I've seen this in every place I've been to. Once you confer divinity on a tree or a stone, nobody can do anything about it. Even if such gods are very close to roads (or may be right in the middle of the road). On the one hand, trees are cut indiscriminately in Electronic city (the absence of trees there only gives an appearance of the road being wide; the road is really not any wider without those trees), and on the other hand, large trees are allowed to grow in the middle of roads until they become a nuisance. Do not let people grow trees and gods on roads.
  6. Either build a wide footpath or don't build one. Don't build an excuse for a footpath inviting pedestrians into danger. Wherever there are no wide footpaths, put enough warning signs for pedestrians asking them to avoid the main road, and take an internal road instead.
  7. Put garbage bins generously. Many people don't want to litter. But if the cost of that is to look for a garbage bin and walk several hundred metres up to it, people grow indifferent. Reduce this cost by planting garbage bins conspicuously.
  8. If there are any public rest rooms that allow access free of cost, (and hence free from maintenance,) get rid of them.
  9. Mandate sensor based automated flushing in all public rest rooms. The long term benefits will outweigh costs. If people have an option of not flushing, they will exercise it, increasingly so if the place already stinks. And this is true outside of India also, okay? A lot of people are conscientious about being the first ones to dirty a clean place.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

India is an odd country. Cattle run riot on roads. (Elephants have stopped doing that since too many IT people started driving too many cars on the narrow roads.) Babas and gooroos are found droning in every street corner. Most dogs are homeless (like most people) and roam the streets nakes in the sun and the rains. And customer support is available 24 X 7.

There's hardly anything peculiar about the US. It's only the peculiar people like I that find some of the things peculiar. All services such as the Internet, cable etc. are organized, are run by corporations, have customer support centres, websites, and the works. And it takes only a few weeks to get anything done despite that. Nothing odd really, except that I am used to thinking how much time it takes in India to catch hold of the neighbourhood cable guy, who doesn't even have a fixed office, yell a bit, and fix the damned thing. May be 3-4 days.

Let's say you come across the following instruction outside banks and other such places: "Shirt and shoes required. Pets not allowed." Should you find it funny? Of course, not. I somehow find it funny though. Would you be envious of dogs with colourful sweaters and caps barking at you from inside luxury cars? No. I am not either. But I keep wondering. Had dogs evolved to grow better brains than those of humans, would they have treated me as well? Odd question, isn't it?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Punjabi-isation of India? Not really.

Vir Sanghvi writes about "Punjabi-isation of India". He's partly right, but generally wrong. His premisses that Hindi cinema is influencing pop culture in a significant way, and that Hindi cinema by and large depicts Punjabi stereotypes, are valid. But his conclusion that India has become "Punjabi-ised" (as a result), does not hold. Naturally, there's nothing right or wrong about the said Punjabi (or any other) melting pot, (though I do have my personal views about such a thing). Except that it does not exist.

Interim Thoughts has a good post on this which makes some of the points I had in mind. For example, the pervasiveness of Idli and Uddina Vade. Further, although it's true that Punjabi food has made a major impact in big cities in the South, more in dinner than in lunch, Andhra meals is also quite formidable. Even if we give it to Punjabi food, it is not clear to me how much it has got to do with movies or TV. I would imagine drinking espresso based coffees or eating pizza to be more direct effects of movies or TV.

The prevalence of Punjabi food in tourist locations in Kerala or anywhere else can be explained without the so called Punjabi-isation. It is not significantly different from the non-usage of coconut oil for cooking in those places.

Hindi movies are terribly popular, but that's not all. It's amazing how popular Telugu movies are in a place like Dharwad. Telugu movies run for 100s of days regularly. Even in Belgaum, the bigger Telugu hits run for a long time!

Karva chauth or whatever it is called might be the most brilliant motif in Hindi cinema since "duniya ki koyi bhi taaqat use nahi bacha sakta", but unlike Sanghvi, I am not sure if women everywhere have started observing it suddenly. Moreover, I know of at least one ritual -- Bheemana amavaasye -- which is quite similar to Karva chauth, observed in Karnataka. Similar rituals might exist elsewhere. With respect to other festivals also, I don't think there's any significant change due either to Punjabi culture and/or movies. Probably indoor rituals and customs have reduced a bit, and outdoor activities have increased, due to the changing times.

Salwar kameez is probably the most popular dress, but saris do return during ceremonies. On the other hand, trousers stay.

All that aside, one of the more direct influences of Hindi movies that I have seen in (some parts of) the South is the taking in of Hindi words for relationships. The increasing usage of funny words such as "bhabhi", "devar", "jeeju" etc. in lieu of age old local equivalents is definitely a direct effect of Hindi movies. However, this is more likely a 'Barajatya effect' than a 'Johar-Chopra' Punjabi effect. This is significant because this has extended beyond big cities, and it has invaded households. This is unlike most other effects which can be seen mostly in big cities and outside of the family. You can find young men and women in a place like Gokak inserting these terms quite naturally in their otherwise unadulterated Kannada.

The point is that memes are running along in all directions. Even the trivial, and pretty annoying ones like the Kannada verb maaDi, (ex: enjoy maaDi, relax maaDi), being used by Hindi speaking folks all over Bangalore.

While it is quite annoying to see the Raj Malhotras and the Rahul Singhanias of the world singing, dancing, oye-hoying and generally making merry all the time, I am sure there is much more to Punjabi pop culture than that, let alone Indian pop culture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Regional Language TV vs National TV

I have always thought the regional language channels that serve general entertainment (non-sports, non-news) are much better than national TV (Z, Star, Sony etc.), in terms of the variety as well as the quality of programming. Why is the difference so stark? (If you disagree, do comment.) I believe regional language TV are doing quite well commercially too, despite covering programmes on literature, classical music, agriculture, dialects, warnings to fishermen, political debates, in depth interviews with non-celebrities, along with the usual serials, film based programmes, and possibly 'reality' shows. How is this feasible?