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Family 'Jinnahs': democracy lost

The political war between Uddhav and Raj Thackeray has entered a new zone with Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray launching a frontal attack on his nephew Raj, by calling him “a modern day Jinnah” playing into the hands of the Congress to divide Marathis. With elections in Maharashtra less than a fortnight away, this statement is bound to heat up the political atmosphere in the state.

Today we may be watching a fight in a divided political family in Maharashtra. But, given the way politics is becoming a family business across the country, it is only a question of time before many more family 'Jinnahs' emerge in other states as well as the Centre.

Have we not lost our way in our experiment with this model of democracy blindly copy-pasted from a tiny and very different island?

What a way to remember the Mahatma

Mont Blanc has just launched the 'Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 241' series of luxury pens made of white gold and priced at Rs 11.39 lakhs each. 241 pens have been made to commemorate Gandhi's famous 241 mile long Salt Satyagraha March from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in 1930. That march, which was covered by the New York Times daily, including in two front page articles, concluded when Gandhi picked up a lump of salty mud to produce salt illegally, and declared: “With this I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire”.

Almost 80 years later, the man who had virtually no material possessions is being remembered in a manner he could have never dreamt of. It probably won't be long before someone comes up with limited edition diamond studded Gandhi sandals, rimmed glasses, may be even 'dhotis'.

Unbelievable Devotion For Dalai Lama

The Chinese are not afraid of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for nothing. There is perhaps no other living man who evokes so much of loyalty and devotion in his followers.

Three of Dalai Lamas followers recently travelled on foot for five months all the way from Ingappa village in Tibet to Bodh Gaya, where Buddha attained enlightenment, to pray for his long life. On reaching there last Thursday, Kelsang Dondup, 56, Sangau Dolma, 62, and Chultim Lama, 43, offered prayers to Buddha at the Mahabodhi Temple.

Two years ago, monk Gyansen Lama had also offered prayers at the Mahabodhi Temple. But he did not come on foot from Tibet. He crawled all the way.

It may be recalled that the Dalai Lama had fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese occupied it, and has been living in Dharamsala since.

Ramayan and Mahabharat on Facebook

Facebook is taking over the Epics too. Who would have thought that Ramayan and Mahabharat would be re-interpreted yet again like this!

I received an email with an attached pdf file about an hour ago. Finding its contents brilliant and worthy of being read by all, I googled for the source and reached Kokonad's site where the original article is posted. 'If Ramayan Were On Facebook' is a terrific effort that will have you laughing. Unless, of course, you are one of those 'competitively' narrow-minded bigots who believe that any fun interpretation of religious scriptures is blasphemous.

Kishanshok has also written 'Facebook Mahabharatha' on his blog. But that's not half as good.

I am sure many more versions will hit the net soon.


Big Brother Will Be Watching

The Central Government of India intends to establish the National Intelligence Grid by the end of this month.

This will give designated officers of 11 Central security agencies- Intelligence Bureau, National Investigating Agency, Central Bureau of Investigation, etc.- complete access to 20 databases held by public authorities. These include Bank accounts, Tax details, PAN, insurance details, etc.

'The idea is to let the law enforcement agencies get quicker and comprehensive access to all information related to suspected criminals and terrorists at one place.'

Government sources are playing down concerns about protection of privacy of citizens. Similar measures have been taken in other countries, too, they say.

The final approval of Home Minister P Chidambaram for the initiation of the first phase, which is now ready to be put in place, is awaited.

Rats Hold Up Air India

A rat held up Air India's Amritsar-Toronto flight for 11 hours at Amritsar on Saturday. The rat, spotted as the plane was being connected to the aerobridge, could not subsequently be found, and a substitute aircraft had to be called from Delhi.

While this rat may held up one plane for 11 hours, the whole airline has been under rat attack since 1978, when the government unceremoniously removed the legendary JRD Tata, who founded the airlines, as chairman. Ever since then, ever hungry political and bureaucratic rats have been feasting on India's national carrier, and not one has been caught yet. The airline is now so critically ill that it needs Rs 10,000-15,000 crores to prevent it from collapsing.

No matter how much money is pumped in, unless the real rats are fumigated, things are not going to improve.

Luscious Lichees In All Seasons Soon

Luscious Lichees are soon likely to be available all through the year. This fruit, which arrived in India from China via Myanmar in the 18th century, is presently harvested in May and June only and is grown mainly in Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

Scientists in the Lichee Research Institute, Muzaffarpur, have developed new varieties that can be planted in various agro-climatic zones and harvested in different months. Plants of Longan, the variety that can be harvested in August, have already been supplied by the institute to farmers. This light brown coloured Lichee will begin to bear fruits in just three years. Work on a January harvesting variety is also on.

If these efforts bear “Lichee”, not only will we enjoy it in all seasons, India may well overtake China to become the largest producer in Asia.

No point in talking

Pakistan wants unconditional talks with India according to Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi. He has also threatened that India's decision not to continue efforts to resolve issues like the Kashmir problem through the composite dialogue would have "consequences".

In the meantime, Pakistani Punjab IGP Tariq Saleem Dogar has said that the mastermind of Mumbai 26/11, Hafiz Saeed has neither been arrested nor put under house arrest, rather the police is providing an extra security cover to the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) founder leader.

When will we learn that there is no point in talking with these people?

Aryan-Dravidian Myth Exposed

The Great Colonial Hoax has been finally exposed. There is no Aryan-Dravidian, North-South divide in India. Indians always knew there never was, till Europeans landed up in India and manufactured one out of thin air, and one that Indian historians continue to propagate.

A study by researchers from Harvard University and India has found that there is a genetic relationship between all Indians and that 'Aryans' and 'Dravidians' have the same ancestry. According to the study, initial settlement took place 65,000 years ago in South India. Around 40, 000 years ago, North Indians emerged and, at some point of time, both got mixed.

The study also helps understand why the incidence of genetic diseases among Indians is different from the rest of the world. This clearly proves that that the famous migration Aryans from Central Asia never did take place.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi in 'Austerity' Mode!

Congress party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi gives live interviews to TV channels from his residence in Delhi almost daily. He seems to have literally dropped his pants to make the party's austerity drive seem real. On TV only his top half his shown so viewers don't get the whole picture.

For his rip-roaring summation on this "wardrobe malfunction", head straight to Churumuri, the source of this picture too.

Rare Lotus Disappearing

A very rare lotus found in India in only in one, yes, one pond in Meghalaya is on the verge of extinction. Only 20 to 30 plants are left. Efforts to save the plant have so far not been effective. Conservation experts have tried to cultivate more of the plants by numerous means, including making cuttings, growing them from seeds and high-tech methods such as micro-propagation from tiny bits of sterile plant matter in a dish, without success.

Leading botanist Pramod Tandon says that it is now as important to save the existing samples as to propagate them. The fact that the only surviving examples are on a small piece of private land is making conservation efforts even more difficult.

Without an immediate and concerted effort, Professor Tandon said he feared this species could disappear from India forever.

Vidyaarambham : initiating children to the world of knowledge

It is festival season in India and everyone is celebrating Navratri. It culminates with Vijayadashmi or Dussehra on the 10th day. In Kerala, Vijayadashmi is also observed as an initiation of knowledge known as Vidyaarambham.

On the morning of Vijayadashmi, the initiation is done by oldest member of the family or parents or guru, either at temple or home. The initiator helps the child to write the mantra ‘Om hari sree ganapataye namah’ on a tray of rice grains with the right index finger. It symbolizes acquisition of knowledge that leads to prosperity.

Of late, followers of many faiths have started following this wonderful tradition.

(Read detailed post here)

Warning: Humor Alert - May contains puns..

While it is amply evident from the Shashi Tharoor Twittergate episode that those in the Government do not appreciate humor, it is unlikely that you would find any humor appreciation classes or courses being held anytime soon for the political classes. Dr Shashi Tharoor got away with "control your tweets" kind of tip-off from the party leadership. But soon we may have a situation where humor content may be monitored and controlled!

Here's a limerick to prepare you for what's coming:
The Indian Government will appoint a moderator;
To scan columns n blogs sooner or later;
To look for that pun;
Where infact there's none;
And consign your post to the incinerator!

Navjot Sidhu 'Missing'

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is missing. At least that is what a police complaint filed in Amritsar says.

Sidhu, a BJP MP from the holy city, has not visited it ever since he got elected in May this year. That has prompted rival Congress activists to put up posters saying that he was 'missing' and also file the complaint.

That is a novel way indeed of protesting against politicians who forget about the people who vote for them, to resurface with folded hands and false promises when it is time for elections again. Sidhu's vanishing trick may have got publicised but the hard truth is that there are many politicians who use the democratic process only to multiply and flaunt their power and wealth.

The people of India clearly need to do something more to make their representatives more accountable.

Rich Biharis, Poor Bihar

Patna may not have any industry or any other major commercial activity worth talking about. But that does not mean that people of the city are poor. The city is, believe it or not, flooded with money, if one goes by the amount of money being deposited in banks there.

Move over Gurgaon, Noida, Navi Mumbai, Surat and Ludhiana. Patna has beaten them all with the highest deposit figure of Rs 23,169 crores. Noida follows closely behind with Rs 22, 380 crores.

Patna has another distinction: bank deposits exceed the annual expenditure of the whole state!

Where's the money coming from? There are hardly any well-known Bihari industrialists anywhere. Yes, Bihar probably sends maximum entrants to the civil services. Along with its army of babus, it also boasts some 'famous' politicians.

Rich Biharis, poor Bihar. Did anyone say corrupt?

Japanese Tourism Boost For Shillong

Considered to be the first 18 hole Golf Course in India and third oldest in the world , the Shillong Golf Club is easily one of the most beautiful courses anywhere. Charted in a surging valley full of pine groves and rhododendron trees, it is also called the Gleneagle of the East.

Its immense tourism potential has remained largely unlocked till now. This is likely to change soon, thanks to the Japanese. The Japanese ambassador to India has said that Japan will organise an Indo-Japan Golf Tournament in Shillong to attract Indian and foreign tourists. The Meghalaya government is also trying to involve IIM Shillong, tour operators and ASSOCHAM to develop tourism in this lovely hill state which, unlike some other states in the North East, is safe and not affected by insurgency. Great holiday destination.

India Needs 'Bigger' Leaders!

“Size does matter” may not be a cliche, after all.

A study by researchers at Victoria University, Australia has found that men with a larger-than-average penis size have higher self-esteem, body image and mental health than those with an average or below sized penis.

That's probably why it's not uncommon for Mediterranean mothers to kiss their babies' penis and say “Grow, grow, grow!”

Here's the bad news: A two-year study by ICMR has revealed that penises of 60% of Indian men are 3-5 cms shorter than international standards.

Many Indians wonder why our leaders and babus show utter lack of confidence while dealing with China and Pakistan. Manekshaw may have unknowingly hit the nail on their even smaller ones when he said in 1971 that Indira Gandhi was the only man in her cabinet!

India needs 'bigger' leaders.

Political Pawns On Death Row

“Human beings must not be used as pawns to further some larger political goal”. This is the stern message that the Supreme Court has given to the government about the mercy petitions of those given the death sentence that it continues to sit on. As many as 26 mercy petitions are pending with it.

The apex court has also said that those condemned and their relatives have a right to insist that a decision should be taken within a reasonable time, failing which the sentence should be changed to life imprisonment; failure to take a timely decision amounts to a violation of the condemned prisoners' right to live with dignity.

Will the government act at last, or will it conveniently use this observation to delay decisions and then commute the death sentences of the likes of Afzal Guru?

Bihari Youth Going Bananas for Mobiles!

The mobile revolution has the poor youth of Raghopur, Bihar going bananas literally!

When some phone companies started giving free sim cards along with cell phones, they would not have imagined that the move would drive some guys straight into banana plantations. Sim cards may be free, but it costs to chat. So what do you do when you want to keep chatting but have no money to buy recharge coupons? You sneak into banana fields, steal bunches of bananas and sell them at throwaway prices.

With recharge coupons available between Rs 10 and Rs 50, and a bunch of bananas going between Rs 25 and Rs 40, it's a win-win situation for cell phone users and operators in Rabri Devi's constituency!

The only guys not happy are banana cultivators. Are they going to complain to Laloo Yadav? Ha!

Increasing Production By Using Bamboo

Despite rainfall being less than usual this year in Sikkim, the production of tomatoes, flowers and vegetables increased by 25%.

The credit for this goes to a technique developed by Pune engineer Rajesh Edke , that uses bamboo instead of steel rods to build polyhouses, which greatly reduces construction costs and makes them affordable for the farmer.

The polyhouse protects the crops from bad weather. It also facilitates the collection of carbon dioxide generated by the plants, which is recycled by them for growth.

With an area of 250 sq m, each of these polyhouses can generate an annual income of Rs 80,000 to Rs 1,00,000 for the farmer. We now plan to provide bamboo polyhouses to over 40,000 families." says K.K. Singh, Director, Horticulture, Sikkim.

A good example of developing techniques that directly benefit the agriculturist!

Royal Price For Nawabi Sevian!

With Id round the corner, can sevians be far behind? Nawabs may have become history but Shameel Shamsi, owner of Naushijaan Sweet Shop in Lucknow, who makes makes many varieties of sevians (sweet vermicelli dish), has come up with Nawabi Sevian that costs a whopping Rs 10,000 a kg!

With oils and flavours from Iran, golden leaves and dry fruits, this delicacy has yet to find an Indian buyer. But Shamsi believes that Allah will send someone for it before Id.

In the meantime, customers from Lucknow are literally lining up to get their favourite sevians whose prices start from Rs 140 a kg. Several overseas orders have also been received from the Gulf and London.

Will anyone be surprised if orders for the Nawabi sevian come from politicians who are indisputably India's modern day nawabs? But will Shamsi tell?

Miracle Rice 'Pre-cooked' By Nature

Scientists at the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) in Orissa may have found an answer that could prove to be a life saver for millions in India, besides being useful for troops located in remote areas.

They have developed a variety of rice that cooks simply on being soaked in water, inspired by a similar low-yielding rice, komal saul, that is grown only in Assam. Experts at CRRI have managed to develop a hybrid of a strain of this rice with a high-yielding variety of regular rice, and have named it Aghunibora.

Successful field trials suggest that this miracle rice could be grown in different climates across India. This is exciting news in a country that has a third of the world's malnutritioned children. The really poor will be able to have a meal without having to light a fire.

No Austerity In Maharajah Class

All ministers are now travelling Twitterer Tharoor's austere “Cattle Class” (CC).

Even Sonia Gandhi made one CC trip to Mumbai but, says Sagarika Ghose, due to the additional security guys she took, the net saving was Rs 7,000 only. Rahul Gandhi also made one train CC trip surrounded by heavy security. A few stones thrown at his train by boys near Panipat was all that was needed to stop further CC inconvenience.

Rahul's recent 3-day trip to Tamil Nadu cost Rs 1 crore. Since he and Sonia have no 'choice' but to travel Maharajah class, why should they not do away with their many trips, and call Congress leaders to Delhi by non-AC CC instead? Why not remove expensive SPG protection from Robert Vadra? What threat does he face?

Austerity always stops at the maharajah's doorstep.

La-loos And The Rail Freight Project

Remember the two dedicated freight corridors, between Ludhiana and Kolkata, and between Dadri and Mumbai, that were conceived by the Indian Railways in 2004-05 and approved by the Central government in 2007, to be built at a cost of Rs 28181 crores?

Finally, after another two long years, the Union cabinet has given approval to availing of a low interest $ 3.7 billion loan from Japan.

As per the original schedule, the first phase of the project was to have been completed by 2012-14 and was part of an infrastructure development plan involving an investment of $ 500 billion by March 2012. The completion date has now been pushed to 2017. Five years is a very long time.

We can't beat China till our babus and netas realise the value of time. Many La-loos need to be weeded out.

Fly Cattle Class, Piddle First Class!

Congress leaders may be flying “cattle class”, thanks to the wonky austerity drive now in place, but citizens of Delhi will soon get 7-star comforts on the ground itself. Well, at least when they want to piddle!

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is planning to construct as many as 300 toilets that will be better than the ones you get in 5-star hotels, with soap dispensers, hand dyers, fancy washbasins etc. Casual users will be charged Rs 2 while the regular ones will be able to buy a toilet card!

That is not all. Each block will also have coffee shops, fast-food joints, flower shops, ice-cream parlours etc. Mercifully, these will be operated by private operators having a brand value of minimum Rs 5,000 crore.

Costing Rs 1 crore each, they will come up before the Commonwealth Games.

Tharoor, Cattle and The Holy Cow!

"Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows." This tweet on Twitter by Shashi Tharoor about having to travel in Economy Class as part of the austerity drive launched by the Congress party has got him into trouble with the High Command. Poor guy was better off in the UN, it seems.

The tweet and the Congress party's sharp reaction to it have resulted in this quick poem from my pen:

There was this smart guy called Tharoor
Who came to India ready to say 'Huzoor'
Not knowing then that for first class
He would soon lose his long held pass

Now little more than chattel
He has to suffer class cattle
And to the wishes of the holy cow
Morning and evening humbly bow
For a limerick and a detailed write-up on the issue, head for India Retold

World's Largest Solar Power Plant For Gujarat

Even as the BJP is licking its wounds after its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is quietly setting up the world's largest solar power project in the state with an investment of Rs 50,000 crore.

The state government recently signed an MOU with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) to set up a 5,000 hectare solar energy park on infertile land in Kutch district. Earlier in January this year, the govt had allotted a capacity of over 700 MW to other developers. With the latest agreement, the total generation capacity of various solar power plants that will come up in the park has gone up to 3,000 MW.

This will reduce CO2 emission by 5.2 million tons annually and create employment opportunities for over 20,000 people.

Recession or not, Gujarat continues to steam ahead.

An Honest Thief With a Golden Heart

He may not be Robin Hood, but this thief does have a heart of gold and an honesty that you would not associate with someone who robs others.

School teacher Kartik Mandal of Chapra village, Nadia, West Bengal, found his house burgled on Monday morning. A thief had taken everything valuable that he had. Crestfallen, he could do little except to keep calling on his cell number. Finally, the man who took his call declined to return Mandal's stolen belongings because he needed them to run his family.

Mandal then requested him to return at least the LIC bonds, KVPs and other documents that he had taken. The thief, to his utter surprise, agreed and asked him to collect them from a place.

Mandal rushed to the spot and found all that he had asked for kept there in a packet!

Video: Terror In Mumbai

Watch this video of the terror attack that rocked Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Dan Reed, it tells the story of what happened after 10 Pakistani terrorists who came in from the sea, launched their attack on India's commercial capital.

This gripping, untold story has chilling footage of the attacks, testimony of the sole captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab and interviews with senior police officers and hostages.

You can view it here.

Dog Is Man's Best Friend Indeed!

That dog is a man's best friend has been known for long. But it's not pet dogs alone who prove to be friends in deed.

A stray dog in Bangalore has just shown that, given a bit of love and care, dogs like him too can become our best friends. Two years ago, Johny strayed into Vijay's house looking for food and shelter, made his cow shed his home, and soon became your friendly neighbourhood dog.

Last Friday, Azharuddin Khilji snatched the chain of Chikamma near Vijay's house and ran. When she raised an alarm, Vijay tried, unsuccessfully, to catch him. Johny quickly understood what was happening and took off in hot pursuit. Soon, he caught Azharuddin by his pants and didn't let go till he was nabbed.

Unlike humans, however, Johny remains unaffected by his latest “celebrity status”.
Picture source: The Times of India

By-polls: BJP Does Well, Modi Rules

The BJP has put in an unexpectedly good performance in the Assembly by-polls, results for which were declared today.

Its best showing was in Gujarat where seven seats were at stake, six held by the Congress. The BJP won five this time, Congress two. And, this despite Modi not campaigning in any constituency personally. In Uttarakhand, the BJP won the lone seat, while in MP it wrested one and the Congress retained one.

Considering that this has happened in the backdrop of serious infighting at the national level, does it show the irrelevance of the Delhi coterie and the party's strategists? Did they adversely affect the party's performance in the Lok Sabha elections?

Meanwhile Modi Magic continues. Couldn't be due to the 2002 riots, as the media would like India to believe. Surely he must be doing something good.

Rajdhani, Shatabdi Get Makeover

Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains will soon look “different” and lose their unique blue and red colours.

The Railways have decided to offer more space inside both these trains for advertisements. The package will also include on board sanitation, cleanliness and upkeep of coaches. The reserve price for this unique product promotion scheme has been fixed at Rs 1 crore for the Rajdhani and Rs 50 lakhs for Shatabdi.

A couple of months back, Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee had stopped the outcourcing of food in these trains after complaints about quality, and asked the IRTC to take over.

Good measures these, no doubt. But what has happened to all that talk of increasing the speed of these trains and even Indias' own “Bullet Trains”?

Mamata needs to visit China. Perhaps that shock and awe will speed things up.

Absentee Railways Minister

The Union Cabinet has met on 12 occasions since the UPA returned to power, but Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee has attended just five meetings.

Banerjee opposed the Land Acquisition Bill at the Cabinet meeting on July 23, and subsequently skipped three consecutive Cabinet meetings—on August 6, 13 and 20.

In choosing to absent herself from the latest Cabinet meeting on September 10, she seems to have shot herself in the foot.

'Banerjee not only worsened her attendance record further, but also ensured that her ministry’s proposal seeking a Rs 17,700 crore Japanese loan to fund Indian Railways flagship project—the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, could not be taken up.'

It appears that just becoming a Union Minister is enough for Mamata Banerjee- no need to take the attendant responsibilities seriously!

Manipur: India's troubled Jewel

Here are some little known statistics about one of India's most beautiful states, the "Jewelled Land", Manipur.

According to Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert, the highest per capita “terrorist” presence in the world is not in Afghanistan or Iraq but in Manipur, where the ratio of insurgents to citizens is estimated to be 1:100,000. Counting insurgents in Manipur is like counting stars, he says, and the deeper you look, the more their numbers grow. A recent question in the Legislative Assembly about the number of armed cadres operating in the state reportedly yielded the figure of 12,000. Another startling statistic is the ratio of armed personnel to civilians, which is pegged at 35:100 in Manipur, compared to 1:100 in Myanmar.

Asks Ammu Joseph: Why do they not spark interest, or make news, in the rest of the country?

The Beatles: Inner Light

The only Beatles song recorded in India! George Harrison took the words from an spiritual Chinese text. Hari Prasad Chaurasia plays on this track and if you turn the volume up on a good speaker you can actually hear January 1968 traf...fic sounds fil...tering through EMI Studio walls in Bombay. Lennon and McCartney added backing vocals in London. (Thanks Sunil Shibad)

Rich Netas and Poor Pratibha

Our rich netas spending staying in five star hotels can perhaps learn a thing or two from Pratibha Devi.

This 48-year old mother of three lives under a plastic sheet, like millions of Indians do, in the parking lot of a South Delhi movie hall. But what makes her different is that for 28 years, she has been feeding street dogs out of the little that she earns by selling plastic bottles and other items scavenged from the market.

Little wonder that she has won an award in the social bravery category of the Godfrey Phillips Bravery National Awards 2009.

Can leaders elected by hungry Indians do no better than take a forced 20% salary cut for them?

Or does this hold true universally?

The less you have the more you share,
The more you have the less you care.

Single Dose H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Ready, India Sleeping

Swine Flu is going to be conquered much faster than has been estimated till now, thanks to a single dose vaccine that has proved successful in clinical trials in Australia.

As per the New York Times, it will be possible to vaccinate all 159 million Americans in the high-risk group with the new H1N1 vaccine before the flu's expected mid-winter peak. Trials have shown that adults who got a dose were protected within 8 to 10 days. This quick, robust protection means lives will be saved.

The pandemic has affected 168 countries, including India where 131 of the 4738 affected have already died.

While the US has already entered into a contract with the vaccine maker, CSL Limited, to supply millions of doses, India is still sitting on the sidelines.

Time to act, Health Minister Azad.

Electric 'Shocks' From Indian Cars

Indian cars are going electric, and globally.

An electric Tata Indica is going to be launched in Norway in September 2009, since that country has adequate infrastructure for electric cars. The car will run on Lithium-ion batteries and can do 175-200 on a full charge.

Reva's awkward-looking, cramped 2-seater, which was India's first electric car, is also going in for a dramatic makeover in collaboration with Dilip Chhabaria.

In a first for an Indian built vehicle, Reva Electric is unveiling two distinctly different models at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the world's largest automotive stage, next week. The NXR is a three-door four-seater meant predominantly for India and emerging markets, and the NXG is a svelte two-seater sports car for Europe. The former is to go into production in early 2010 and the latter in 2011.

Expecting more such pleasant shocks!

Photo source: Zigwheels

Trapped Hoolock Gibbons Need Rehabilitation

Hoolock Gibbons, the second largest of the gibbons, are a rare species that live in forests and depend on fruits, insects and leaves for survival.

Due to rampant deforestation, their habitats in Arunachal Pradesh are under threat. 13 Hoolock Gibbon families have been discovered stranded in a small forest patch near Delo village, 23 kilometers from Roing, Dibang Valley. Some of them are trapped on a single tree and are facing a serious food and water crisis. Fortunately they are safe from poaching because the Idi Mishmi community has prohibited their killing.

Forest Officer Aloke Singh says that WTI, America based IFAW and the Wildlife department have been approached to take appropriate measures to rehabilitate the homeless gibbons.

A team from Itanagar is expected soon to relocate them in a nearby wildlife sanctuary. Hope they reach in time.

Jaswant For Jinnah, Obama For Gandhi

Jinnah's greatness may have been re-discovered by Jaswant Singh who evidently does not think much of his peer, Mahatma Gandhi. But in far away America, Gandhi continues to inspire.

President Obama, asked by a student which person, dead or alive, he would like to have dinner with, said it would be Gandhi “who is a real hero of mine...He inspired Dr. (Martin Luther) King...with his message of nonviolence...He ended up doing so much and changed the world just by the power of his ethics”.

"It would probably be a really small meal”, Obama said, “because he didn't eat a lot”. Jaswant, who loves his "chhota peg” would no doubt like to have dinner with Jinnah who enjoyed his whiskey too.

All depends on what you really want to “eat”, even when given such a chance.

Length Does Not Matter, Say The Japanese

At least Toyota and Honda believe that “small” should not be classified on the basis of length.

This is in sharp contrast to the views of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) that has been demanding that, no matter what the capacity of the engine, cars must be classified as small only on the basis of their length. Presently, cars that are four metres or less in length and having a 1,200 cc petrol or 1,500 cc diesel engine are classified as small, and attract a lower 8% excise duty against 20%, plus Rs 20,000 additional levy for big cars.

The Japanese automotive giants, however, have sought to make fuel efficiency and automotive safety the sole criteria for classifying a car a small. The fixation with length needs to be shed, they say. SIAM is in a fix.

Airlines Grounded, Cars Flying!

Even as India's airlines are being "grounded" due to slower economic growth and high ATF prices, cars are flying off assembly lines.

Sales in August have zoomed from 96,082 in July to 1.2 lakhs, a whopping 25.5% jump, on top of a 31% growth in July. And the festive season is yet to come. Demands for new models has ensured that sales have shown an increase for the seventh straight month.

India has also zipped past China to become the third largest exporter of autos, despite its own market being just 19% of China's. Between January and July, India exported 2.3 lakh cars, vans, SUVs and trucks, registering a growth of 18%, while Chinese exports skidded 60% to 164,800 units.

May be that's one reason why China's growls on its border with a petrified India are getting increasingly dangerous.

Satyagraha That Should Shame Pilots On Strike

Mookhon Iung, Mookabeng, Nongkharai, Nonglatem, Iongshiwiat, Moorathut and Nongdhar. These are villages that few outside Meghalaya would have heard of. Not any longer.

Ending a 20-year wait for a road that the PWD should have built, about 750 villagers from these seven villages in the Jaintia Hills have decided to build a 15 km long road that will connect to a highway.

They hope to complete the work by the end of September and then “see if the government still remains shameless not to come and blacktop it,” says Tyllilang Mukhim, rangbah shnong or headman of Nonglatem village.

The villagers want to make the road good enough for commercial vehicles to carry their agricultural produce, much of which rots before it reaches the market.

This is real Satyagraha. Positive, constructive. Should shame Jet Airways pilots who have gone on strike.
Picture Source: Hindustan Times

Austere 5-Star Ministers!

IE reports that two Union Ministers, S M Krishna and Shashi Tharoor have been staying at Maurya and Taj respectively for the past three months because their official accommodation is not yet ready. The official line is that these guys are paying the bills from their own pockets.

As long as this is the case, it's fine by me. They can do whatever they want with their money. However, it's not clear how much they have coughed up so far, and there is certainly no guarantee that they will not claim reimbursement from the government for the same in the future. Considering that the minium tariff for a night's stay at any of these hotels is supposed to be Rs. 40000 at the very least, I am pretty sure the taxpayer will be forced to pay the bills in the end.

Only Whores Marry For Love!

Shocked? There is huge, living part of India where love marriages are still frowned upon and an age-old moral and honour code is imposed by panchayats.

Jat leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, who commands a sizeable following in a many areas kissing India's national capital, has made it clear that marriages within the same gotra are incestuous and love marriages are also not acceptable: “Only whores can choose their partners”. Blaming education for this dirt, he hails the recent decision of a panchayat to execute a couple who married against the society's wishes.

In a related development, khap panchayats in Haryana are determined to get legal sanction for their decisions by getting suitable amendments incorporated in the Hindu Marriage Act, so that there are no further “clashes between tradition and the law”.

India and Bharat are different countries indeed!

Why Break It If You Can Take It!

Why break a safe if you can take it? So what if it weighs 1.5 tons!

That's exactly what thieves did in a jeweller's shop in the main market of Churu in Rajasthan at around 3 AM last Saturday. After breaking into the shop quietly by opening six different locks, the thieves uprooted the safe containing jewellery worth Rs 17 lakhs, put it in a jeep and sped away!

Shopkeepers living opposite were woken up by the noise made by the safe as it was being loaded into the getaway jeep. Even though they shouted and others also came out on hearing the commotion, the thieves got away.

The Police arrived late, as always, and showed little interest in investigating.

The thieves, who have yet to be caught, must have by now broken the safe open in a safe place!

And why did they die?

When I read that 67 people died on hearing the death of YSR, I wondered if such an incident could happen in Kerala.

In Kerala we do have ardent supporters who will kill another for the party’s sake, but never have I heard of anyone committing suicide or dying on hearing about death of a political leader. Is it because the state is 100% literate/ more developed/ does not have a leader worth dying for? Or is it because the caste system is thinning out and many social norms have been thrown out?

Perhaps in states where desperate needs are met even to the barest level, people tend to elevate their leader to the status of God.

One wonders how a leader who has been accused of so much of corruption got into the hearts of the common people.

Karachi surpasses Mumbai

Mumbai has lost out to Karachi and handed over the crown for hosting Asia's largest slum. Orangi township in Karachi has surpassed Dharavi in Mumbai and now has the dubious honor of being Asia's largest slum.

Perhaps an aspiring film producer striving to be the next Danny Boyle, should now visit Karachi and portray Orangi Township in all its splendor!

UP Villagers Expose Pension Scam

A year ago, the Department of Social Welfare in Uttar Pradesh started listing the beneficiaries of its old age pension scheme on its website. E-kiosks, known as Lokvani, were set up at various centres.

Last month, a young mechanic in Sitapur wanted to check why his father’s old-age pension had suddenly stopped. 'He went to a local Lokvani centre, where he got a list of the beneficiaries from his village.'

Finding many irregularities, he complained to the District magistrate.

'Since then, preliminary inquiries have led to the detection of a widespread racket. The state government has now ordered a physical verification of the lists in all villages.'

'“The idea behind putting the information online was to create transparency and this is what is happening now,” said Shailesh Krishna, secretary to the Chief Minister. '

Religion and Sex Crimes: Two More Cases

What is it that make some men of religion do exactly the opposite of what religion teaches and what they themselves preach? Particularly when it comes to sex?

The latest in the unending series of sexual crimes involve a pastor and a granthi.

Father Sadhu Immanuel has been arrested for raping a 20 year old girl. This 60 year old man runs a charitable trust in a village near Minjur in Tiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu. Reportedly, he has sexually assaulted other girls too, even inside the church.

A few days after a granthi was found watching pornographic clips on his mobile while reading the Granth Sahib, another one has been caught after he tried to assault a five-year old girl in a village near Barnala, Punjab.

Makes one wonder whether Osho was right, after all.

The Post-YSR Sordid Drama

Try as I might, I just can't pretend I am sad when I am not. So, when YSR Reddy was killed in a helicoptor crash, I didn't exactly feel depressed. Here was a goonda who had allegedly amassed billions of dollars abusing his position of power for the past few years, and this very guy is now no more. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I would say it is good news for the country. Poetic justice - as some may say.

Following the disgusting way the media went into a frenzy paying "tribute" to this goonda, we are now entering into another episode of this sordid drama where YSR loyalists are trying to get his political greenhorn son Jaganmohan anointed as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh who, it seems, is a goonda his daddy would be proud of.

This Assamese Hottie Is Just Too Hot!

This sizzling hottie from Assam is sure making waves.

Bhut Jolokia, also known as Naga Jolokia, is the hottest chilli in the world. Measured at more than one million SHU, it is twice as hot as its nearest competitor, California's Red Savlina. It is called “bhut” because one turns ghostly (bhut ban jaata hai) after eating it.

Americans, always fascinated by anything that is the biggest, largest etc have, not surprisingly, taken fancy to it. Chilli-heads are already growing Jolokia in hot houses. A sauce made with it has been aptly named “Naga-sore-ass” while another one is “Kiss my Bhut”!

It won't be long before the CIA realises that “administering” Bhut Jolokia the wrong way will get even the most hardened prisoners to sing. Move over Sodium Pentathol. The real truth serum is here! Human Rights?!

Man Rapes Bitch, To Be Tried

In what could prove to be path-breaking move in law, a Mumbai man is going to be tried for raping a bitch.

To prove its case, the prosecution is collecting semen and going to laboratories to prove that force was used in this non-consensual sex. Tardeo Police are in search of more eyewitnesses whose testimony will be crucial since the victim's statement cannot be recorded. Or deciphered.

Section 377 of the IPC is being applied in this act of unnatural sex. Gay activist Vikram Doctor says that what has been done is wrong since “animals cannot give consent to what people do to them”.

This is not the first such instance. Anuradha Sawhney, Head PETA, says a case was registered earlier against a man in Delhi for raping a buffalo.

Wonder what some Arabs might have to say.

Micro-blogging: Yahoo Meme and Blogger

Unknown to me, Yahoo has been working on a micro-blogging service that is similar to and, possibly, inspired by Twitter, like India Tweets has been.

Unlike Twitter, Yahoo Meme allows pictures, videos, music etc to be posted, like in a normal blog, along with comments. The description, however, is limited to 100 characters as against 140 in Twitter. Yahoo had quietly launched this product in Spanish and is now doing so in English.

While Yahoo has addressed the text only limitation of Twitter, I feel that the limit of 100 characters is too little. As you would have already seen in India Tweets, the essence of a story can be told in 140 words and a reader does not have to go to another site for that.

Perhaps Blogger will keep this in mind when it launches a competing product.

Beggar Becomes Lender

How things have changed in the last 18 years.

In April 1991, India sold 20 tons of gold to Switzerland to raise $200 million. In July, it pawned 47 tons to the Bank of England to raise another $400 million. For what? To prevent default in short-term loans till an IMF loan came through.

India's foreign reserves then were below $1 billion, enough to pay for only two weeks of imports. They have now risen to above $271 billion, thanks to economic liberalisation that has partially unshackled India from the chains of bureaucratic red tape.

As per a news report, India has agreed to lend up to $10 billion to the IMF to help it raise funds to rescue nations facing financial trouble.

The beggar has become a big time lender. Jai Ho!

Frog In Pepsi: What next?

Indians have been finding worms, ants and insects in bottles of Coca Cola and Pepsi in India. In the three cases whose links have been higlighted, fines have been imposed on the multi national giants. Many other cases go unchallenged because the discovery of these foreign bodies is made after a bottle has been opened and part of its contents consumed.

I know some of us will be tempted to say, Govinda-style, that this happens only in India. But wait. What India can do, the US can too. And not just, but bigger and better.

A Florida man found, yes, a frog in his can of Diet Pepsi, when he felt a “disgusting” blob in his mouth. FDA has confirmed that it is a frog. Anything bigger couldn't have got into the can.

Try a big bottle next.

McDonald's Going Desi!

McDonald's is going Desi, and how!

IRCTC has tied up with McDonald's to serve aloo puri and chicken masala at Old Delhi Railway Station. Besides the usual McDonald's fare, a number of other Indian and Chinese dishes will be made available through a counter called Desi Potli. All for under Rs 50 in an air conditioned restaurant that will be managed by the fast food giant. In fact the price of most items will be under Rs 20.

In the next one year, six more such outlets are likely to be opened at other important railway stations. IRTC is also planning to open 42 such kitchens that will be linked. Passengers will be able to order food at one station and get it at another 24/7.

Don't be surprised if McDonald's soon starts serving aloo puri in the US too!


Andhra CM YSR Reddy has died in a helicopter crash that has claimed four other lives too.

Yesterday evening, almost 9 hrs after the chopper disappeared, Chief Secy said that pilots flying YSR would be some “x,y,z” pilot. Today, Sonia Gandhi and the PM also remembered only YSR. It was as if the other four who died did not exist

I forgot. This is India and not the US. Here, faceless Indians don't count. Didn't we see that after 26/11 too, when the media went into an overdrive only because people who they knew and identified with had died, and not some poor Indians travelling in local trains? Now too, TV is doing an overkill.

Our heartfelt condolences to the families of YSR Reddy, P Subramanium, ASC Wesley, Gp Capt SK Bhatia and Capt MS Reddy.

It's UFOs Again!

It's the UFO season again.

Madhya Pradesh Minister Ramkrishna Kusmaria says he spotted a UFO in Sukh village, Damoh district. It caused damage to crops. 'Papaya fruits fell off trees” as the UFO passed by, he says, adding that he has even taken pictures of the object that he will share after he gets back to Bhopal. Thanks to him, villagers are claiming compensation for crop damage.

But what must take the cake is the claim of the wife of the new Japanese PM that her “soul” travelled in a UFO to Venus , "a very beautiful place", while her body was asleep, 20 years ago. She is now burning with desire to make a film in Hollywood with Tom Cruise as the lead actor because she knows that he was a Japanese in a previous birth.

Beat that!

YSR Reddy Missing: Another meaningless coincidence?

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy has been missing since 9:35 AM today, when the helicopter in which he was travelling lost contact with the ATC. The Emergency Position Locator of the chopper is also not sending any signals. Rescue helicopters have not been able to locate the missing chopper till now due to bad weather and thick jungles. More than eight hours have passed.

In 1991, former PM Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in the midst of a come-back election campaign. In 2004, former Chhatisgarh CM Ajit Jogi was critically injured in a road accident and almost paralysed. In 2004 itself, Sonia Gandhi failed to become the PM at the last minute despite winning the election. Now Reddy has manifestly met with a serious accident.

All these individuals, except one, are Christians; Rajiv Gandhi was married to one.

Is this another meaningless coincidence?
Obama And Biden Vs Osama Bin Laden: Coincidence?
History: This will take your breath away....

Cebu Inmates Dance To Jai Ho!

AR Rahman's Oscar winning song Jai Ho is continuing to make waves across the world.

In 2007, inmates of a maximum security Philippines prison became instant Internet sensations with a viral video of them dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller. That video has generated over 32 million views on You Tube till now.

On May 30, 2009, over a thousand inmates of the Cebu Prevention, Detention and Rehabilitation Centre danced to the song Jai Ho from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The dancing routine, a brainchild of Prison Chief Byron F. Garcia, is a means to exercise the minds and bodies of prisoners. No punishment this.

So much better than “Chakki peesing and peesing and peesing” in Indian jails!

The video on You Tube has already been viewed over 700,000 times. Watch it.

Lesson In Harmony And Tolerance

Buddhist villagers of Banglung village in Assam's Karbi Anglong district are faced with a peculiar problem.

Hundreds of storks nesting on a sacred peepal tree are threatening the tree's survival. Several branches of the tree have already dried up because of infection caused by the birds' presence and their weight.

The villagers had thought of chasing the birds away but did not do so because it is against their religion. So, they have asked the forest department to take steps to protect both the tree and the storks.

Some lesson in living harmoniously with nature, even each other, for all of us.

Perhaps the Chinese, who are busy destroying Tibet's culture and changing its demographics by pushing in Han settlers, would also do well to re-learn the teachings of Buddha from the people they are oppressing.

Same Law For Everyone

In India, the rich and famous apparently think that laws that lesser mortals have to follow, do not apply to them!

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh recently acquired a Hummer SUV costing Rs. 10 million. He did not think that it was necessary to get a registration number, though.

While he was driving the vehicle in Chandigarh city yesterday, 'the traffic police slapped him with a penalty of Rs.3,000 for traffic rule violations'.

Superintendent of Police (traffic) H.S. Doon said : "We got this complaint against Harbhajan Singh yesterday (Monday) that he was driving a Hummer without any number plate in Chandigarh. The law is same for anyone and it does not permit us to ignore any celebrity or a cricketer."

Interestingly, a friend of the cricketer had driven it from Jalandhar to Chandigarh without a number plate, but had not been stopped.

The "Killer" Car That Godse Rode

The car that Nathuram Godse reportedly rode to Birla Bhawan on January 30, 1948, to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi, is now owned by Pervez Sidduiqi, a vintage car collector. The 1930, six cylinder, 40 bhp Studebaker runs on both manual and automatic transmission, and has a top speed of 160 kmph. It was originally bought by a king.

As per Sidduiqui, the car was in police custody till 1978, when it was auctioned. He bought it in 1999 from Kamaal Motors Bareilly, where he saw it parked in the garage. After it was repaired, Sidduiqui not only took part in various vintage car shows and rallies but has also taken it on trips to Shimla and Jaipur. On the road, it is a head turner.

The car has been aptly named “Killer”.

You Tube video here
Picture source: Mid Day

For India's Foreign Office, It Is USSR Still

The USSR may have disintegrated 18 years ago. But as far as babus in India's Foreign Office are concerned, there is no Russia: it's USSR still!

One knew that in India's babudom files take weeks and months to move from one table to another on the same room. But, in the records of the Ministry of External Affairs, properties allotted to Russian embassies are still registered in the name of the USSR! The only saving grace is that India's babus are not alone. There are five more countries who have still not made the changes. Must be all in the sub-continent.

It will not be surprising if in some records, India is still British India, Pakistan included!

Now we know why India is often caught napping by international developments and why its reactions are often too little and too late.

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