Monday, December 30, 2013

AAP


AAP ke aankhon mein
kuch mehke hue se raaz hain
AAP se bhi khoobsurat
AAP ke andaz hain

So said the bard, though not of Kejriwal’s heady concoction that has laid siege to Delhi.

Of course a lot has been said of Kejriwal and his idol Anna Hazare and their eventual split, their clean image, Kejriwal’s bold step to stand for elections, and actually win. Of how congress has been humbled and how the broom can sweep the country clean (of corruption). 

Optimism is probably the opium of the masses, or of the youth. And pessimism is the ground of the incurably skeptic. Granted, in that case, am a skeptic. Am skeptical of AAP. In my view, very soon, AAP will become, in every which way, a competitor of Congress and BJP or any other political party. Kejriwal (if he continues) will be rubbing shoulders with a Mulayam, Lalu, Jayalalithaa and Jagan. If he is luckier, he will give more shivers to Modi, Rahul/Sonia, Chidambaram or a Pawar. But one thing is for sure – he (or AAP) will do all this – not by being a saint among the sinners, but by being ONLY marginally a better sinner than the rest. Yes, AAP will now transform into a full-fledged political party, with all bells and whistles accompanying it. Or it will disappear. 

How else can it be? A political party functions as a political party – not as a bunch of well-meaning rebels who can fast unto death for a cause.

A political party has politicians in it – people who hanker for power – people who need to hanker for power – people who play the power games, people who have people depending on them to play the games, and win. A gallery to play to, a vote bank to retain, an all intoxicating drug of power to sustain, to breathe, to live. Once AAP tastes blood, either the purists will leave or will get transformed from “rebels with a cause” to normal, power hungry politicians.
 
Scams will come and scams will be hidden. Like always, scams will start small – a gas pump agency for a long standing  friend, a foreign junket for a deserving scholar, purchase orders to a known reputed dealer..and soon, the whole jimbang of uncles and cousins and supporting industrialists of all colors and passports will be on the AAP speed dial.

And Anna Hazare will continue to fast. Maybe Kejriwal as well.

Tigers are carnivorous by nature. Feasting on grass is just not natural for tigers. AAP is a political party. Thriving on honesty and integrity is just not natural for political parties. It simply defeats the very purpose of being in politics. Politics is a zero sum game – either AAP has power or someone else has it. There is no democratic sharing of power, ever. Power is binary. He who holds it is 1. The rest have a grand 0. There is no fuzzy logic about power.

There is no doubting AAP’s desire to deliver clean governance, efficiency or progress. However, should they focus on governance alone, they will struggle to retain power. And once they realise that they are losing the grip on power, they will either reprioritize (thus, quickly learning the art of real politik) – or they will die a natural death reserved for all honest,  hard-working, naïve politicians.
 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brick by brick


When your eight year old comes back beaming from the washroom in a restaurant and exclaims “they have soft closing seats in the loo”, there can be only one conclusion. You must be constructing a house ! And yes Sir, I am.

Soft closing seats aside, am not petrified anymore by fully or partially vitrified tiles. Fossil stone, engineered wood and high-density fibres are now like a random bunch of friends from various childhood schools.  Antique brass and powder coated hinges don’t leave me creaking. My TLA vocab has grown too, taking in its sweep RWH, MSS, MDF and WHU (what-have-you). Also, have figured out a thing or two about faux art - Monier is not a French painter, Odele is not a Roman princess. Artize could make a good photoshop option, but means something else altogether these days.

House construction occupies mental bandwidth like nothing else possibly can. Courtship or marriage wouldn't possess one as much as construction, for what else can explain affairs on the side ? Work could never obsess most people as much either – how else can one explain job hopping? Try googling for people who have cheated on a house construction, by leaving one midway and starting another, you will have reached the end of what google knows! House construction wins hands-down when it comes to being the single most important master in the lives of each of us earthlings, who mostly innocently venture into such an activity.

Some people are born to be passionate about something – they become the experts in their chosen field – Sachin Tendulkar and Oprah Winfrey are good examples. Lesser mortals can fancy their chances at expertise ..with house construction.  Practically everyone that has constructed a house- be it the size of a shoe box or a shoe factory, has an expert opinion on every aspect of the construction – and mostly this expertise has been gained at the cost of a screw up.  If you do take the risk of asking someone for advice on what you should do, be prepared to be inundated …with what you shouldn't do ! Don’t go to that architect – in fact don't go to any architect. Don’t go for teak…Don’t ever consider anything other than teak. Don’t go for marble floors – it is the most overrated thing ..next only to the Taj. Don’t go for granite counters, don’t plant those trees, don’t paint those colors and stay away from such neighbors!

At home, house construction plays Pope maker. And the Pope decides. And the Pope wears the pants. And decides what is good and what is bad, and curses you for always playing the devil’s advocate. The Papal role is of course reserved for the one who spends most time at home. Most logical, if logic was ever a criterion to go with. I resign, devil’s advocate is probably as far as I can ever get to having a say, legal or otherwise, in matters of house construction.

One fine day, after having bought the site, I broach the subject of planning the house. The son begins with his wish-list - a Jacuzzi, a basket-ball court, a cricket field and a velodrome make it for starters. A gaming room and bedroom that turns into a disco come in as after-thoughts.  The better half, holding her papal instincts back if only briefly, suggests a gym, with the noble intention that getting me to invest in it would get me to use it, if only occasionally. Mother asks for a kitchen large enough to qualify for Michelin stars – the rest of the house, if any is needed, could be on the first floor or even on the neighbouring site. My dad asks for a garden that is at least as big as the kitchen. The basics are expected to fall in, fairly easily – the living room, dining, bedrooms, bathrooms ..all make their appearances – just that I’m left wondering if what A considers to be the bathroom space is indeed what B considers to be ideal for the kitchen and C thinks would make the perfect place for the puja, from a V perspective. Arrrgh ! I take it on the architects, I tell you, they are all about options and not about decisions! And that’s exactly when I’m reminded with the all-knowing “ahem”, it’s not the architects silly, it’s the Pope who decides!

And Pope it shall be. The Papal decisions come in a flurry. We will not have the living room there, we will not have those kind of windows in the kitchen, we will not have those floors and the stairs, they will not be there. So how do we go upstairs, I innocently ask. Stairs of course, will be there, but not “there” as in, not in that part of the house – silly me. I thought we were going to have an escalator! The papal decisions leave me floored – a number of good decisions that identify the bad designs are taken. Good riddance of bad rubbish – to hell with those stupid ideas. But the devil’s advocate cannot resist popping the question - how do we go about identifying the good designs – where is it good to have the dining or the living or the stairs or the garden or whatever. Pat comes the reply – the Pope decides, lesser mortals can design. That leaves me resigned to design. And re-design. Ad infinitum.

And then the parents and assorted well-wishers and relatives chip in. The dreaded V word begins to make its rounds. The word I had avoided – had specifically asked the architect to steer clear of. V for vastu.  Since I take pride in being a rational animal, I have steered clear of religion and belief to the extent that I made a pre-nup with the wifey on letting me steer clear of it, and have relished the day when my son, all of 5 years, popped the question “Is there God, and why should we believe”? Anyway, cutting the rationality crap, I for one couldn't care less for vastu, but since I’m anyway a careless person, others tend to care. 

Weekends are spent window shopping ..and door shopping and tile shopping and WHU shopping. Designs, materials, quality, affordability, availability accessibility and lot of other ities occupy weekends. Options, options and even more options play out in my sleep. All my rationality is used up in making mental pugh matrices, only to be over-ruled either by the contractor for being too expensive, or by the architect for being inconsistent and finally by the Pope for being, well, not Papal in origin! To be fair, I’m terrible at decision-making myself, and I always knew it. But just as you never learn how to swear until you learn to drive, you will never learn how to decide (or how not to decide), until you build a house.

As the house gets into shape – exteriors are done, plastering in progress, the contractor is haggling us for the design of the compound wall and such sundries, am left wondering if house construction – or any construction for that matter.. is a matter of the heart or the soul. The debate of the head vs heart is pretty old fashioned – and in the case of house construction, they are both nearly on the same side. The body (head and heart) needs a house, but what about the spirit? Does the soul crave for a house – complete with wooden floors and pergolas, Hettich in the kitchen and Grohe in the bathrooms? Couldn't we live on earth and disappear leaving behind nothing at all? Plants and animals leave behind pretty much nothing. But we leave behind monstrous amount of legacy, hardly of relevance once we are gone. 

And in my case, decidedly, that will include soft closing seats.


Monday, May 24, 2010

If Google TV were a bicycle..I'm a fish

I need another box around my TV like i need a hole in my head. Well, I probably can do with a search bar on my TV. But do i need to balance a keyboard on the armrest of the couch while holding a beer in one hand and a baby on another? And then wait for search results to show up, and when I click on one of them, be reminded about codecs I don't have. Or holidays that I can have, also pizzas, jeans and cars. Or be informed what my 100 odd "friends" are busy watching. Or sieve through finance bonds, junk bonds and chemical bonds before I get my quantum of solace?

If Google TV were a bicycle, I'm a fish.

TV watching is not hunting-and-gathering. It is a lazy buffet from which you take your pick. Normally, the spread is large enough to satisfy most eaters. But one can beat the spread easily. And complain. The buffet targets the average audience (called TRP). Gourmets get nothing special in this spread. You can partake of it as much as you wish. But the spread will hardly change just to mollify the pesky eaters. If you come late and miss your dish, well, hard luck. You can always get to a gourmet restaurant and order one "a la carte".

Of course this is not always ideal. There is always a seeming need for an occasional mail-order. VoD is just that. However, it is not (yet) the most natural way of consuming entertainment on the TV.

The most natural way to consume TV is using the P+ and P- buttons of the remote control. You can reduce that further to only one of them - say, the P+.

P+, arguably, the most pressed button on the remote control, represents how most people have spent their evenings all their lives. Will Google TV change this, with the plethora of android apps? And succeed ? Or, will it "enrich" your P+ experience by suggesting friendly ads, listing your friends who are watching the same channel, recommending related content etc ? And how much of this enrichment would you love? And for how long?

Google needs to detail out a number of aspects of their Google TV. What value do they bring to consumers, to advertisers, to content creators and to their own shareholders.

Of these, the key question of course is about consumers: Why would consumers prefer Google on their TV? (Aren't we happy enough googling on our PCs and phones?). Or, as explained earlier, aren't we happy pressing the P+? If you happen to be the "lean forward" types, you always have the option of using a PC. If I hear you complaining about the hassle, then you are actually a "lean back" person. So go back to your lazy, lean back, channel surfing habit. And stop pretending that Google TV is what you always wished for.

Secondly, it might make sense for Google to ask themselves why would they succeed any more than Yahoo with their TV widgets... given the following facts. The widgets are a lot more light-weight than Google TV. And there are thousands of widgets out there, suiting almost every need! Yes, Google has more credo, although Yahoo claimed the advantage of pioneering this whole concept! And still Yahoo widgets on TV is not exactly hot cakes.

Thirdly, but as important as anything else (if not more) is: Who makes money from Google TV and why? Google should have held their technology horses until the business guys come clean on this. Going by the recent history at Google, the urge to spin new technologies seems to over-power the need to underpin it's viability. "This is cool stuff", they seem to say. "Let's do it and then hope to find a way to make money from it". C'mon guys, you are not a start-up anymore, hunting for a rich-n-greedy investor to buy you out, based more on your tech credo than the weight of your biz-model.

There are more reasons to doubt Google TV. But then there is still a possibility that Google has the last laugh. For sure they can pull this off. But most likely not in it's current shape.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Social web is not an ordered set

With social web, it is often easy to conclude that it is a mess - just point to the fable of a million monkeys on a million keyboards. Extrapolating from here, aggregating islands of mess will only make it a bigger one. Right?

Could we be more wrong and more right at the same time ?

Social web is not an encyclopedia of human knowledge. It is not meant to be. It is the collective noise of the human race, each saying "hello, am doing good. how are you" and a zillion variants of this same message. To expect order in this is futile. To claim that this is cluttering our otherwise prim-and-propah lives is akin to calling the Tajmahal a white building.

But, as we all know, there are golden nuggets hidden in this humongous data mine. Just because it is so big or so difficult, should we give up looking? Should we not try to decipher patterns here, infer who are potential friends, what they are up to, what they have in common, or how our relations can be strengthened ? Should we not seek to better our lives by exploiting technological possibilities?

I think Yahoo is doing the right thing. The purpose of aggregation is not to seek nirvana (neither intellectual nor commercial), but enable easier social contact over the web. The nirvanas mentioned may arrive (ref: http://www.cluetrain.com/) but even if they don't, the purpose of social networking would have benefited.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Is Shashi a tweet chap ?

Jug believes Shashi Tharoor (ST) is a "tweet chap". I'm not sure. There could be more to ST's tweeting than meets the eye...but I'll leave that for another day. For now, let me question Jug's belief.

ST has the right to tweet and the right to disagree. However, as a minister, he has the obligation to retain in public, the sanctity of the governmental view on policies. In private (within the four walls that SM Krishna has mentioned), he has the obligation to criticize policy proposals and ensure that the country gets the right policies.

In his eagerness to use his rights, either he clearly has forgotten his obligations, or (worse), has discovered that his views and policy criticisms do not seem to matter.

There's nothing wrong in ST tweeting, nor is there anything wrong in the message itself. But there is clearly something wrong when a minister chooses to go the public route to criticize a policy. Either he is naive enough to be unaware of decision making loop (and hence is unable to contribute his valid positive criticism of the policies while they are still being prepared) or has not earned the trust of his fellow politicians so they disregard his criticism (even if it is presented well in advance of the public announcement of the policy).

Jug, you could do your old buddy a favor by reminding him of his obligations..and advise him on how to go about achieving his obligations. He clearly doesn't need any support for exercising his rights (and wrongs).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Right the strike note

Now Jug can't hide his low mojo, can he? This article is so "text bookish"..Jug now qualifies to work at NCERT!

Imagine Jug had a normal day (or night) at work (or wherever he does whatever it is that he does), this article would've turned up quite different. Allow a poor impersonation of what it should have been.

To start with..the title - "Right the strike note", that's what it should have been. "Strike is my birth right" declared the Jet airways pilots. You can't strike that away from the Indian constitution. Not even if you are a certain (or uncertain) Naresh Goyal. Yes, Naresh has now been brought down to earth..and reminded not to take his name too seriously.

Didn't the "bad M" do this to the "big T" sometime back? Commies swear by it and manage to run two disparate states for eons singing this very tune. Strike and the world strikes with you. Work and you work alone.

Can someone please remind these modern "efficiency / MBA" types that "work" is a four-letter word, ending with K, and so has no place in descent society?

So what if patients are stuck in a hospital as doctors go on strike? They are not called patients for nothing. They better learn to be ..well.."patient".

Factories - if anyone needs reminding - are places where unions are manufactured. No, those ugly Chinese sweat-shops churning out every damn thing do not deserve to be called factories. Mao would turn in his grave at the very sight of such gross efficiency..err..injustice.

What do you think Indian netas do in the parliament..at those rare moments when the parliament is about to transact business? They "walkout" - in effect, they strike. No, it is not only the comrade crowd which patronizes this form of democracy. Even Advani does it! Congress has done it several times when in opposition. The jhagada dals are so adept at it that they now run a night-school on how to stage walkouts. Talk of art imitating life, directors of saas-bahu serials are queuing up to learn!

Strikes unite Indians like nothing else can. No, not even cricket or tandoori chicken can bring Indians closer. If you need any evidence, just look at the "national holidays" we have. Yes, there are those "doordarshan days" on Aug 15 and Jan 26..and then there are the "real" ones, celebratory ones, uncorrupted by "rote TV programming" - we call them "bandhs". Bandhs are days that the entire nation looks forward to. Firstly, no mad rush in the mornings. Have breakfast without looking at the clock. Bond with the kids. Lunch at home - what better place for pet-puja? Siesta time - with no fear of the boss walking in at the wrong time. Or catch a matinee on cable. As the birds fly home, call up college buddies, meet at the adda, down a few for old times sake. A national holiday couldn't be better!

Jaswant has written a book? Great, let's celebrate that with a bandh. No rain in the Cauvery basin? Only a bandh can help. What, petrol prices are up again? No way, we need a bandh to bring some sanity back. Gosh, what would we have ever done if not for bandhs? Hey, wasn't it the father of the nation who invented them..albeit in a different avatar...Satyagrah or some such thing that these Britishers could never fathom? Pity that we only celebrate this phenomenal invention for just one day - Oct 2. Hey, come to think of it, should we organise a strike to extend Gandhi Jayanti to an entire week?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Catching Jug by the jugular

Dear Jug, I have been reading your articles every week in the ToI for many many years now, and have thoroughly enjoyed several of them. I do disagree with you, occasionally - be it for your enduring desire to fish for loo humor or your polemic dismissal of certain "lesser mortals" (typically, the practitioners of the art of real-politik). But this article from you and the resulting comments on your blog have triggered me to articulate the view from the other side..as in a game of chess. This view from the other side is both revealing and educational. So, without further ado, here goes...

1. Jug, would you sign a public-petition requesting/encouraging the venerable M.F Hussain to make a nude painting with Islamic religious characters in them? And do you have the balls to face the consequences?

2. Trivial as it may seem, choose between solid belief in economic progress vs. solid belief in "principles". Now, let's give them both a face or two - Narendra Modi vs Jyoti Basu. Or post-war Western Europe vs pre-war Western Europe.

Allow me to explain the "faces". The western European nations had been perennially at war with each other for centuries...until post-war economic prosperity overcame the need for war. West Bengal, on the other hand, has been in relative peace for decades under the principled governance of the comrades, but it sunk into increasing depths of poverty, eventually leading to naxalism and fire-brand politicians. In other words, prosperity leads to peace, and NOT the other way round. Shift focus now to Gujarat - there is a Modi who has been the face of the economic prosperity there - and he is only allowed to do his job if he gets elected. And to get elected, he needs to put on a mask - of hardline Hindutva. Only the naive will discount the utility of populism. For example, S M Krishna, arguably, one of the best/progressive CMs of Karanataka, was naive, and so he lost the elections. Modi is far from being naive. While one can easily disagree with the means he employs, one can hardly ignore the TINA factor. Also, it is important to balance the means with the ends.


3. Jaswant wrote a book, no one has really read it yet, but Modi banned it already. What do you see happening here? Is it merely a book being banned (yes, I have the temerity to slight this) ..or is it a wily move to gain points in the game of succession within BJP..an opportunistic move which claims "I'm the undisputed leader of the new BJP". Was there not a similar raison d'être for previous "bans" which did not involve the BJP - for example, the banning of The Satanic Verses. In essence, the analyst is obliged to look beyond the obvious - to dig into how the ban would help the ban-ner. Jug, you have let down the analyst in you by limiting yourself to taking predetermined pot-shots at the obvious.

4. The attacks on the nuns, girls going to discos, students wearing jeans..for sure deserve to be condemned, in the harshest way. But the question that a responsible society still needs to answer is: Why do such things happen? The obvious answer is:For political gains. This leads us to question if we bestow leadership (political gains) only to those who demonstrate their darker sides. Or if the act of bestowing leadership is done largely by people who are impressed by the demonstration of the darker sides. What every arm-chair intellectual such as Jug(who blame the "rest of the world" for all the ills plaguing it), misses is: "I am responsible". Yes, I'm responsible for allowing leadership to be bestowed to goondas and hooligans of all shades. I come first. The rest of the billion plus people might similarly be at fault too...but I cannot shun my responsibility. Of course not being an arm-chair intellectual makes the acceptance of responsibility easier.

5. A heavy (ahem) subject to round up: India was born in relative innocence - "the soul of a nation long suppressed, found utterance". Well, what did it utter then, and what does it utter now? The media has been the public manifestation of that utterance. Just how many of us would not curl up in shame at the current state of the Indian media? Is there any self-respecting voice left in the media? Someone who can stand up (not only as in comedy) and apologize for this? Or, are they just too occupied blaming all and sundry, when not busy finding a pee-for-free place in Venice? Oops, did that hurt?