Wednesday, May 7, 2008

For the lazy friends of mine!

Ahh.. there were a few frnds who complained it was a pain to visit the site and that they did rather have me post my articles here like I've done with my previous work. So here it goes. But mind you, I did rather you go visit the site cause like I said earlier I've designed the site too!!!! so... :D

Edited Version: (after the above post)
It is a damn pain to post all my articles. There are 7 of them in total. Sigh.

The Investigative Report that won me the best IP award at ACJ

Yes yes, I completely agree. It's been ages, but you know.. :D

Anyways am posting a link to my Investigative Report that I did at ACJ. I've looked at the different aspects of recruitment by IT companies across engineering colleges in Chennai. Your comments/feedback are most welcome

Investigative Report
P.S: The site has been designed by yours truly :)

Friday, March 28, 2008

End or the beginning.............?

I know I blog in sporadic bursts, but ACJ has taken most of my time. Which is also the reason why am blogging in the midst of all the chaos and pending work that is due on March 31st.

Yes, thats my last day for submission of all my work in order to obtain my Journalism degree, but like most things in ACJ dont think all our assignments will meet this deadline. They cant blame us, they have overloaded us with soooooooooooooooo much work that at two different points in my final term, I wanted to quit ACJ and give it up.

But common sense prevailed and shouts like "Are you mad? You are this close to getting your degree and you want to quit? Crazy girl!" from various corners of the room were reasons for me to go on.

Now that the end of life in ACJ seems so near, I am actually missing the dread of meeting deadlines and the labs seem lifeless.

The past few days that I have spent in labs 3 and 4, make me feel so lonely that I cant sit there for more than a few minutes at a stretch. The labs are empty without the 'staff'' of Digantik working on the site. There is no hollering out, "Is that story in? Where is the damn reporter?" and the frustration creeping in, "Why is the damn style sheet not attached? Why are the links not working?". The tension, "Are MJ and Gita going to approve of this headline? Is the banner all right?" All of this is gone, to be replaced my silence. Although most of us were stressed out with the tension in our news rooms or in this case, news labs.. we used to thrive on it too. We made scores of mistakes and our two Hitlers ensured that we learnt from them.

The postmortems as MJ and Gita liked to call it, but Manikandan, our software prof, thought it was uncool and unfair to call it that as he felt that we were creating something (our site) and not killing it. Nevertheless, all three of them joined hands when it came to ripping the site apart and pointing out our mistakes. Of course, after asking us what our problems were. But at most times I thought that was just a formality and the true reason was that they were eager to get their teeth in.

ACJ is/was stressful annd I have had my moments when I wanted to tear someone else's hair out (mine is too good ;) ), but I also learnt to tame myself and keep my short temper in check.

Alas, it has to end. But there is also a beginning.. to life outside of ACJ which begins with our placements on April 1st. And like a true ACJian, am looking forward to the fun of sitting it a room with media bigwigs and although I did like to tell them that we are a bunch of crazy people to the all that we do, I shall sedately sit there and sell my talents to them. In this case, my ACJ degree will do most of the selling for me. :D

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Laugh your way to health

Doctors may not agree that laughter is therapeutic, neither is there a scientific way to explain the healing powers of laughter. However, 15 members of the Laughter Club at Marina beach believe that, “Laughter is the best medicine” and practice it despite a skeptic audience. Every morning they begin their day with a 45-mts session of laughter.

Manohar Bokadia, a businessman, is the initiator of this club. He said, “Do not call me the club founder. Laughter has been around for centuries. I haven’t discovered it.” His technique includes combining laughter with breathing exercises, which he learnt from Dr. Madan Kataria, a general physician in Mumbai. To spread laughter, he has set up laughter clubs in different parts of Chennai – Haddows Road, Besant Nagar, T.Nagar, and Harrington Road. To be a member one does not have to pay. “You cannot take money to make someone laugh, and then you aren’t making them laugh. You are upsetting them by asking for money,” he laughs.

To keep them laughing Bokadia has named the exercises according to their purpose. The ‘boxing laugh’ is for people to punch their anger out. People form two groups and laugh as they pretend to box. He explained, “This helps people to release negative energy from the body.”

Dr. Pravin Agarwal, general physician at Apollo Hospital, said, “It is true that the common reasons for headaches are anger or nagging thoughts. Maybe laughter can help to a certain extent, but not always.” On a lighter note he added, “While laughing the face muscles are stretched removing the wrinkles from ones face, it would help in making one look younger.”

One of the exercises involves pressing the head with the palms while breathing in and out while laughing. This is an alternative to Pranayama, the breathing exercise in yoga. It helps releasing unwanted energy and keeping headaches away.

The ‘beer laughter’ is the most popular cheering routine. This strengthens the bladder and helps them hold their urine for as long as 30 minutes. All they have to do is place their left hand on their kidney (“pot-belly”) and touch their toes with their right hand while laughing. The ‘backhand swim’ walk helps reduce weight. Kavitha, a 55-year-old grandmother said, “I am as thin as my daughter because of this. So why would I not want to laugh and lose weight?”

Jayvel, former Crime Branch Inspector and a trained Siddha practioner, suffered a 30 per cent heart blockage in 2002. But after joining the club, his blockage cleared and humour found its way back into his life. He said, “I did not need to undergo bypass surgery. After one year of daily dose of laughter, my blockage was completely gone.”

The daily routine also includes pressing acupressure points. Pressing these points activates them and circulates the blood throughout the body. This also prevents heart attacks. Bokadia said, “When you clap with your palms spread out, you are pressing all your acupressure points. Clapping 1000 times everyday is equivalent to a 10 km walk.” Thanks to hearty laughs he no longer worries about those hearty meals “Because of these exercises, I have lost 80 kgs in the past three years and my hair too has grown back.”

There are many others like Bokadia who have recaptured some part of their life that was missing. K. Lal has gained the self-confidence he lacked five years back. He said, “I used to stutter a lot as I was shy. But after coming here it has improved.” Laughter improves team building, communication skills and self-esteem.

There are also members like Radhakrishna who believe that prevention is better than cure. He said, “I do not suffer from any sickness, maybe the laughter has kept them at bay. I come here to forget my worries.”

Next time you a see a group of people laughing hysterically early morning, do not laugh at them, but laugh with them. The happy hormones in the body are waiting to be released.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Shash's DRAGON!

This is Shash's new ART form. This art work is still in progress. He says it is "a graphic from wheel of time". Ask him what he made this from? His promptly replies, "Vertices and polygons." He emphasizes, "Do not forget the polygons."

And for people like me, just go vistit

"A graphic from wheel of time" refers to the wheel of time by robert jordan. The main character is Rand al'Thor, who's called the Dragon Reborn. Naturally, with 12 books out and the 13th coming, there's a big story behind it, but whenever rand appears in a chapter, it's preceded by that graphic. He has jus added depth to the blue dragon (See the picture with the red dragon). It is actually a 3d model which he extrapolated from the 2d drawing. If you notice around the eyes
and the claws there's some amount of shadowing.
For more of his pictures, Visit: (Click on the image to grow it)

KNOL no threat to Wikipedia says Jimmy Wales

Okay the following is the OFFICIAL report I wrote with my friend Brat on my dinner date with Jimmy Wales.

Chennai: “I am not worried about Google introducing KNOL.” said Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. KNOL is Google’s online encyclopedia. Wales was on his second visit to India to address undergraduates across the country and spoke to reporters in Chennai on Saturday evening.

He said, “Google’s blog says this (KNOL) is not an open source software whereas ours is. This is where our strength lies. I am not worried about them.” Wales added that Wikipedia had built trust with their users and that would stay with them. His idea of starting a free online encyclopedia was criticized as a Utopian goal, but Wikipedia is now synonymous with information on the net and is inevitably the first or second on a google search result.

“I am happy with where wikipedia stands now. It has reached where I wanted it to be; even an African child can access information in his or her own language,” said Wales
Wikipedia is now available in 250 languages.

According toWales a major problem in updating information in other languages is the lack of a vernacular keyboard. He said, “Maybe if phonetics were used to type in one’s own language it would be comparatively easier.”

He did not think adding a video or an audio element to the pages was a great idea and firmly dismissed the possibility of Wikipedia introducing them. He said, “It is difficult to edit the content of a video or audio for facts or for bias. There is no advanced software that would help in editing them to our needs.” He added, “Personally, I prefer reading text. If I get a call, the text is still there where I left it. It is not the same with a video.”

On the latest clash of the Titans, Wales voiced his doubts on the Yahoo – Microsoft deal and was quick to point out that Yahoo mail had many more users than gmail. However, underlining Google’s status as the best search engine, he said “You always google for something. You do not go to Yahoo for search.” He conceded that Yahoo was a good news portal and that Yahoo messenger was widely used.

David Appasamy, Communications Manager of Sify, said, “Yahoo and Microsoft are two disparate companies and they wouldn’t do well together.” Wales agreed with Appasamy. Appasamy also added, “Yahoo has been on a decline for the past two years. This is an act of desperation by both.”

Friday, February 8, 2008

In Parsi land: 'Andar aao ni' (Come on in)

Nai nai, you are quoting too much for the tomatoes, Rs 14 is right. After all, yesterday you sold it at Rs 12, and today Rs 16. What nonsense!” argued Dilnaz, a 45-year-old housewife living in Cusrow baug in Colaba, Mumbai. Dressed in a pink flowery nightgown at eight in the morning, she is haggling over the vegetable prices with the tarkariwala (vegetable seller). This is a familiar sight at any Parsi baug in Mumbai.

Most Parsis live in secluded colonies called ‘baug’ that are built by various trusts headed by industrialists like the Wadias and Godrej’s or by the local Parsi Panchayat. The baugs of Mumbai, Cusrow, Rustom, Jer, Godrej, Novroj, Ness, Malcolm, Behram, Panthaky, Bharucha, Firozsha and Contractor, to name a few are home to 35,000 of the 40,000 Zoroastrians. Each baug has its own unique layout with the buildings surrounding the agiary (fire temple) and garden. The baugs with their arched entrances have tall trees that provide shade to the Victorian style buildings enclosed within a compound wall. Each baug has ten of these buildings in the very least that are spread across five acres of land, some of them more, and they house 100 families on an average.

First built in 1912 in Mumbai by the Parsi Panchayat, the baugs are now more than just an address for the Parsis; they are an essential part of their distinct identity. After the first baug, several more were built in 1937 and after the World War II to provide houses for the Zoroastrian community at affordable rates. Even today a Zoroastrian who wants to own or rent a house in a baug can apply to the trustees and will be offered a place based on availability.
Each baug has its own doodhwalla (milkman) and pauwalla (bread man) along with their own tarkariwalla who become part of the extended family and are familiar with the needs of each family. Quibbling over prices is an enjoyable ritual for them.Nanu bhaiyya, the vegetable vendor in Cusrow Baug, said, “I have been coming here for 30 years now and nothing has changed. Every morning I still have to explain to memsahib why I cannot give her a 50 per cent discount. I do not mind because she is like my family now.” The goswalla (meat seller) is the most sought after as a true Parsi cannot imagine a meal without a mutton dish. Ras-gosh, an authentic parsi dish which is a mutton gravy made of apricots and garam masala and eaten with with naram pau (soft white bread), is finger-licking good and a dish to die for.

A baug is a closed community where everybody knows everybody else and if Jahanbax dikro is studying or not. Freni, a 64-year-old in the Old Parsi Agiary in Secunderabad, with her snowy white hair tied back in a braid and a scarf over her head, said, “These children in the colony are like my own. Every evening when I go down to meet my friends; I take a few chocolates for the children.” She laughed and added, “That is the only time they come to me. Otherwise when I ask them how their studies are going and are they troubling their parents, they run away from me.”
Asking questions is natural in the baug whether it is the day’s menu or is Rustom still dating the same chokri (girl). Sanobar, a 30-year-old housewife, said “Every afternoon my neighbour hollers across the passage asking me what I have cooked. When I first moved in, I was baffled. But now if Dolly Aunty doesn’t ask me I would think something has happened to her.” On cue, Dolly Aunty, a cheerful 54-year-old housewife, walked into Sanobar’s flat and said, “It is nice to know what the other is cooking. It’s a sense of being loved. Sometimes we also send food across. This way we ensure the feeling of being a part of one big family.” There are two to three flats on each floor, facing each other. Residents talk across their grilled doors which are always open and people also walk in and out of each other’s home frequently.

While the women exchange recipes the men of the baug discuss matters of the world: on whether 'Bipasha Basu is more attractive or whether Aishwarya Rai retained her charisma even after marriage’. These men or bawajis, dressed in leghas (loose, flappy pajamas)and sudras (a religious vest made of handspun cotton) with a topi (a religious cap) on their bald pates meet every evening in the large garden around the baug’s agiary (fire temple).

Their mornings are spent in their arm-chairs reading the newspapers and slurping tea from their abominably large cup and saucer every morning. Darius Uncle, a 70-year-old grandfather, prefers Bipasha Basu. He exclaimed, “Dikra (child), she is smart and sexy. She has brains to go with the beauty.” And clinching the argument, “After all she is going out with aapro dikro (our son) John Abraham.”

But Jehangir Uncle, a 65-year-old retired bank manager, argued, “Bipasha hasn’t had as many hits in her kitty as Ash has. Even after marriage she (Ash) is going strong. That never used to happen in our times. After marriage the heroines had to settle at home.”

Younger men of the baug are not part of these animated discussions. Jehangir Uncle said in a mischievous tone, “All these cutlets (‘young parsi boys who have meat and no brains’) are busy wooing the fatakrees (a variation of the Gujrati word fatakra meaning cracker) in the colony.” He smiled wistfully and murmured, “In our days we had only one fatakree for the entire colony and now there are so many for them to pick from!”
The fatakrees are not the only reason that keeps the cutlets away from the elders. They feel that the elders pry too much into their lives and can be embarrassing. Pervez, a 22-year-old M.Com student said, “They are so inquisitive that they need to know everything from the ice cream you ate to the girl who dropped you back home.” But Roxanne, a 21-year-old student, said “I will be lost if I no longer hear my neighbours bellowing out at one another.” She emphasized, “I am so used to them discussing their family drama across two floors; it is now a source of entertainment for me.”

No matter what their complaints are, youngsters do not want to move out. Pervez said, “I am so used to it that I can’t think of living anywhere else.” Hormazd, a 23-year-old, said “Living in a baug is dirt cheap. We pay only Rs 600 a month as rent and live in the most posh part of the city which is Napean Sea Road. The same 500 square feet flat will cost at least Rs 20,000 a month. So why would I even think of moving out?!” Godrej baug, on Napean Sea Road, was built in 1984-85 by the Bombay Parsi Panchayat.

A baug is home for the Zoroastrians, a community space for them to bond; a haven where time seems to pause for gossip and naram pau.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"If google goes down, something else will come up"

Last night, a friend and me had a discussion on why google is better than any other search engine. And also why the Yahoo! and Microsft deal, if it came through, wouldn't do much for the. Note, Shash is a hard core google admirer and the following converstaion could be biased. If anybody has an alternative opinion kindly feel free to add on. I've also added a few links to stories regarding the deal which I personally think is a must read to understand the complexity of it. There again I thought I did write a lone blog on the deal, but thought this conversation sets a good ground for it.

IMJ: Have u read the story in New York Times on Google's (G) take on the bid?
Shash: Yes I read G's take on it.
IMJ: They are definitely thinking if that’s their response. No matter what any one says about the deal, G is definitely shuddering.
Shash: They're playing smooth. Thing is, they can't be challenged that easily
IMJ: Yea. Smooth on de surface chaos inside.
Shash: Too much permission capital with everyone. We all lap up google services and don't care one whit about MS or yahoo search engines.
IMJ: Well think of it this way Micro and Yahoo engineers together working to improve the search engine. It is definitely something to think about
Shash: Lol don't blame you, but that's not how it works. The google databanks account for about 60% of the world's big iron machines, the ones that are publicly connected, anyway.I doubt anyone can beat the raw power of google's systems anytime soon
IMJ: What do you mean by “The google databanks account for about 60% of the world's big iron machines the ones that are publicly connected, anyway.”?
Shash: Simple raw computing power. The google servers are not really single systems. Rather, they're these enormous complexes of networked machines that work together and split the loads between themselves. One could consider the databank to be one huge supercomputer if they do; it's the single largest entity on the internet. You've seen the "(0.13 seconds)" bit on each google search, right?
IMJ: Yes
Shash: Now imagine that each request goes through like maybe 5000 computers in that span of time. The thing is, google makes their own servers - they customize the OS and build their own machines from off-the-shelf components. At the scale they operate at, this is so bloody cheap that they can afford give away things for free even if 99.99% of us never click on the ads.
Shash: Also, they've got this huge amount of advertising capital. You don't yahoo for something - you google it and with blogger, they practically own the word blog and google earth, picasa. Nobody goes to hotmail or even yahoo mail anymore.
IMJ: Then isn’t it unfair for them to say that micro is going to manipulate and violate the idea of the INTERNET??
Shash: Some would say so and in a way, they're right. But remember it's the same site, whether you find it through msn live or google or through a friend giving you a URL. What they're saying is that Microsoft has this reputation for playing dirty. They bundle products with their OS and thus snuff out a great alternative with a "good enough" one. I don't think that'll happen to google though - they're saber-rattling at MS and yahoo
IMJ: G had filed a lawsuit against M when dey had made MSN default search wit their OS.
Shash: yup and a fat lot of good it did MS. Everyone just reconfigured their home pages to G. Including the OEMs who did it out of the box after people complained.
Shash: But even google's power pales in comparison to something else that's just building up
IMJ: Meaning?
Shash: It is the simple fact that wikis, blogs and the rest are user-generated. No more are we tied down by a few sources for everything. Interested in something vague and weird? Make a website or a blog about it. Even if you don't want the free stuff, you can do it for about $5 a month + 9.95 a year for a domain. So if google goes down, something else will come up.

Other links:
Yahoo! and the future of the Internet by David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer
Monkey boy's three-legged race
Google and Microsoft Take Up Battle Stations
How Google Could Keep Yahoo From Microsoft
An Offer Yahoo Can’t Refuse

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dinner date with Jimmy Wales

Okay for those who don't know who Jimmy Wales is (there were quite a few of my friends who didn't!), he is the founder of Wikipedia. Yes, the very site you would go to if you wanted to know about a career option u are looking at like logistics or to look up what a heinie is.

MJ says that it is not the best site to look up when you want details and research. But its an undisputed fact that wiki is the most sought after.

And yes I was lucky enough to meet the man who founded it and made it possible for one and all to add on to the online encyclopedia.

Jimmy Wales is in the country to address a few universities on various issues regarding the internet. As he was in Chennai, two of my friends and me caught up with him at an informal get together at dinner. Thanks to Kribs else we would have missed out on the oppurtunity.
Seated at a table for 10, Jimbo sat at the head of the table. There were quite a few biggies from the IT industry along with two other reporters.

Krib's introdruction of us as the Crème a la crème journalism students was quite a boost. It was an overwhelming thought to meet Jimbo (his preferred nick) as we didn't know what we would talk about. But he put us at ease by drawing us into the conversation right away.

Discussing the motivations of why one would want to sign up with wikipedia to the problems of handling edits made by mischief-mongers. We covered most of the wiki ground.

Asked if wiki would soon go the video or audio way, he wasn't too keen on it. Citing reasons like difficulty editing such pieces on the basis of bias and information or even updating an audio/video piece. He said the technology for editing this hadn't been developed. He also said that to add on information it did be difficult.
He wasn't too keen on any content being linked to blogs as a source of information due to various reasons. Or adding a podcast. He said they were still in the nascent stage and wiki had a long way to go for all of that.
He also believed that it is easier for a person to read text while multitasking, than it would be to hear a podcast or watch a video.

When asked what his take on the new google software 'knol' which is alleged to resemble wiki. He said he didn't feel threatened in any way as it was not similar to wiki at all. Would it change the cartel of google search w.r.t wiki? He replied that wiki was a non-profit organisation and it really did not matter.

Discussing the Microsoft-Yahoo! deal, he played safe and said one couldn't really say if it would work or not at this point in time. He did agree that they were two different companies in terms of work culture and all, but one never knows what could happen. He also said that Google was number 1 as a search engine, but Yahoo mail still has many more users to their credit. gmail doesn't. But he also acknoledged that the gap was fast being bridged.

David Appasamy, Communications Manager of Sify, said "The two companies are so disparate, that its tough to merge the two." According to Appasamy, Yahoo! has been on a decline for the past two years and the bid by Microsoft seems to be an act of desperation from their side.

Well, there were many more things that were spoken about, but more of that when am done writing the story with my colleague Bratatee. Shall post the story, so all you people have nothing to worry about.

You will get the inside story along with pictures. :) Till then goodluck and goodnight.

Discrimination against Indians in Mumbai

While Indians were raving and ranting about the discrimination against Bhajji in Down under by the natives, Mumbaikars had to face one too.

The almost riots like situation on Sunday, Feb. 3 - 2008, came as a rude shock to the residents of Mumbai. Especially those who are from North India. It is no longer an issue of being an Indian and a non-Indian. But this has been decentralised and come to the very core of being an Indian.

Raj Thackeray and his party (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) members have created chaos in Mumbai suburbs. Raj Thackeray made controversial comments against north-Indians and Amitabh Bachan is particular. He voiced out his belief that maharashtrians were being discriminated against when it came to jobs and other amenities. The northies seem to be all over Mumbai, making it their 'earning' home, but not accepting it full-heartedly.
This entire fiasco was more of a political propoganda and an attempt to woo the 'true mumbaikars'.

It is an expected thing that when the Big B is bad-mouthedc his extended family, Amar Singh - member of the Samajwadi Party (SP), has to come to his 'adopted' brother's rescue. And this is what happened. Amar Singh too indulged in a verbal spat with Thackeray, turning it into a violent clash between the two parties.

MNS attaked a theatre playing a Bhojpuri film and pelted Big B's house with liqour bottles in the wee hours of monday morning.

Thackeray should be told that what the mumbaikars really want is a state that has amenities to provide like water, efficient drainage systems during the rain, adequate housing amongst a few. Rather than indulging in verbal and violent games.

How does it matter if Big B is building a school in Up, if he is so concerned about the lack of education facilities in Mumbai - why doesn't he build one? But NO that is that the issue that he fought on. For him it was a case of people earning in Mumbai but spending in their home town. He claims they are not 'Mumbaikars' at heart.

What does he have to say about those 'Mumbaikars' who are maharashtrians, but not living in their home-town? They are not supporting the city in any way what so ever. They are spending in the cities/countries that they have adopted as home. Should they be called 'mumbaikars'?? Should they be allowed to come back to Mumbai if they wanted to??

On what basis is Thackeray discriminating against north-Indians? Should the other states too start treating the migrated-mumbaikars the way MNS has? Shall we all ask them to pack up their bags and return to their city?

If we start discriminating on people on the basis of inter-state, then where will India stand in the global community? We were dividing people on the basis of religion and caste. Are we now going to adopt the policy of discriminating against people on the basis of which state they come from?

The combination of caste + religion + inter-state is going to be a lethal one that could cause repercussions far and wide.

I love Laloo Prasad Yadav's response when Thackeray asked the obnoxious question, "Why are the Railways full of Biharis? Are Maharashtrians less able?"

"Localisation will not be tolerated in an era of globalisation!" Laloo retorted.

Yes, I completely agree with Laloo.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Team India go kick lots of Aussie A****

After Bhajji's hearing on Tuesday, all of us - Indians - heaved a sigh of relief and were jubliant. But OZ media played spoilsport like their team. It is hard to believe that the very same media who was backing Bhajji up after the Sydney test are the ones who say that Hansen's verdict is crap and its a "pressure n money" verdict coz of BCCI.

Thats just utter crap! Why cant they, both the Australian team and the Media face it that we got what we deserved? Is it too hard for them to face the fact that we are now giving back as good as we get? They just crying like babies.

Why are the Australians and even a few other former english players forgetting that Symonds the MONKEY!!) was the one to start the verbal assault?? Bhajji just retorted back like any other human being. But here lies the problem, the aussies are just stuck-up snobs who refuse to be beaten at their own game - be it Cricket or sledging! And that too coming from an Indian. No ways, they are not the ones to sit back and say "Bring it on"

There is evidence from the stump-mic that proves that Symonds (MONKEY) was the initiator of what turned the cricket field to a dirty sledging arena.

They should learn from their mistakes and I hope that Bhajji decides to sue Symonds for defamation. That ought to teach the Aussies a lesson even if this episode hasn't!

Music sharing - legal or illegal?

This is a talk that a few of my friends and me had as part of our first Audio podcasting assignment. Turned out to be quite an interesting discussion. Hope you all enjoy it too.

Click here to get your own player.

My first Podcast

We had this workshop on podcasting today. It was fun n frustrating. Fun coz it was creativity at its best aand we learnt a whole lotta cool stuff that I wldnt have known of or learnt, if not for this wkshop.

Frustrating coz de damn PC i sat on was jus jinxed to quote Unni and James. Firstly de damn Audacity player didnt wk, had to record on a friends laptop. Then got it transferred ONLY to realise the damn Audacity player was a different version than my friend's and hence couldnt do much with the recorded piece. So she converted it to MP3 format. After which I signed up with Podomatic to upload the podcast.. And i'm still waiting for it to be uploaded. Hence the time to post this blog. Once its done, I shall upload my FIRST EVER podcast here.

So wait and listen.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Farmer turns cab driver as crops fail in Cuddalore

Bhaktavatsalam, a vannair farmer from Sakkangudi has sufferred large crop losses due to the rains in 2007. His 12-year-old son, Balaji, studying in the Panchayat Union School looks on.

Cuddalore: 38-year-old R Bhaktavatsalam, a Vanniar, (a Most Backward Caste), owns six acres of land, that he owned from is father 20 years ago, in Saakangudi, a village in the Keerapalayam block, where he cultivates paddy. But for the last five years, he works as a cab driver with a local travel company to meet the increasing cost of living. He has three children – two sons and one daughter, all of whom are studying.
His farm land is at a one kilometer walk from his house, near the dalit colony of the village. He hires labourers to do the manual work, but he decides on what seeds to sow and what fertilizers are needed. He said, “I do all the administrative work and the physical work is left for the coolies.” Bhaktavatsalam, along with other farmers of this village, who cultivate mainly sugarcane and paddy, faced crop losses due to the heavy rains last December.

Has the government given you any compensation for the crops that were affected during the rains this year?
No, we haven’t got any compensation yet. Our Panchayat leader has told us that the inspection officers from the Central Government will be coming before Pongal. They will check our records and inspect our fields. Then,only if they see it necessary/ will we get any compensation. But the rains were in November-December, so by the time they come here, there will be nothing left of the havoc caused by the rains last year for them to see. So then how do we get our compensation?

What happened in the previous years after the floods? Did you get any compensation?
The last time I got compensation was in 2005. That year the rains were heavy and I lost out on most of my paddy. While I was paid only Rs 2000 for my loss. I incurred a loss of about Rs 45,000, inclusive of all the fertilizers and pesticides I bought. That year was the worst; I had to take a loan of Rs 10,000 the next year to buy seeds and fertilizers.

How did you cope with the living costs after your loss?
I earn Rs 3500 a month as a cab driver. I had to live with that. At least we had some food on the table; my neighbors suffered a fate far worse than me.

What’s the quantity of seeds you buy every year and where do you buy them?
Per acre I sow 45 kgs of rice seeds. Thirty kilograms of rice seeds cost me Rs 400. I buy it from a co-operative society. We have one in every village. I buy the PPT variety of rice as it is the tolerant variety. (PPT is a herbicide called Phosphinotricin. A variety of rice called Oryza Sativa. L, which is tolerant to the herbicide, has been produced.)

Have you bought seeds from the government? If so, have you been given any subsidies?
No, every time we go to the Keerapalayam Panchayat they say that there are no seeds. They say the same for fertilizers. So we always buy all that we need from the co-operative society. It is not that they give us any discount, but at least we get good seeds.

What is the germination of these seeds?
I get 75 per cent germination. But this year due to the floods caused by rains, my crops were affected. A bag contains 10-15 kgs of rice Usually I get 20 bags of rice, but this year I may get just 12 bags.

How many labourers you employ on your fields and what are the wages do you pay?
I have 15 people who work for me - 11 men and four women. The men are paid Rs 100 per day and the women are paid Rs 50.

Why such a large difference between the wages, don’t the women demand more?
(Laughs) The women do not do as much manual work as the women. They are physically weaker, so the work done is less, that’s why I pay them less. They don’t ask for more because this is how it has been all these years and this is how it will remain.

Customs keep mother away from child

In isolation: Senyami with her nine-day old daughter, Jayalakshmi. Following old customs, Senyami's mother-in-law makes her sit in the corner of the house for 40 days, till she compltes her menstrual cycle.

Cuddalore: Senyami, a 40-year-old woman from the Irula community in Kaliangar Nagar could not reach the hospital in time for her delivery of her seventh child. She was washing clothes at home, when her water broke. Since the nearest government hospital is 5 km away in Killai, she had to deliver her baby at home with the help of her mother-in-law.

It has been nine days since she her daughter Jayalakshmi's birth; yet Senyami sits in the corner of her two-room house isolated from her family and children. Following customs that one believed were long forgotten, nobody touches Senyami and Jayalakshmi, as they haven’t bathed. Senyami said, “On the twentieth day, we both will take a bath. Then her grandmother will look after Jayalakshmi till I complete my 40 days in isolation. Only then I will be allowed to reclaim the responsibility of my house.”

Until Senyami completes her 40 days of isolation, her new born will not be breast-fed. She was unaware of the fact that her milk could dry up or that after some time it would not have anti-bodies which are crucial for the baby's immune system. She has four children who are below the age of five and need her care. When her two-year-old son cried and ran to her for comfort, his grandmother held him back as his mother was considered impure.

At times her eldest daughter, Raji who is an IX Std. student at the corporation school, had to act as surrogate mother for her siblings. She hasn’t attended school this term, which began in January, as she was needed at home to help her mother. Raji said, “My mother needs me. She cannot help my younger brothers and sisters because of her current condition. I bathe and feed them. I have to look after them so that they don’t run into the fields close by.” She also added, “Once my mother is allowed to do so, I shall go back to school.”

Senyami and her family of ten members earn Rs 300 a month. The family depends on the meagre income of her husband, who works as a driver (a person who grinds rice to flour) at a rice mill in Killai. Her mother-in-law is too old to work and Senyami herself works only during the harvesting season earning Rs 35 per day. This year she couldn’t work due to her pregnancy. The family live on Rs 10 a day, which is Rs 2 below poverty line (BPL) and the money is used to buy one-liter milk for the entire family every day. She said, “We add water to the milk so that we have enough for everyone. We buy Ponni rice from the ration shop or sometimes my husband gets it as wages from the mill. The pulses that cost Rs 2 at the ration shop have stones. But we cannot afford anything better.”

Sterilisation was never an option for Senyami. But after her third delivery that was cesarean, the fear of injections and operating theatres was infused in her. Her seventh delivery and increasing financial problems has showed her that the greater fear is that of dying of hunger. As soon as she is physically fit, she plans to go to the government hospital and get herself sterilized.

Flaws foil NREGA in Cuddalore

Women working at the NREGA site in Kokupalayam village in Panruti block. They were laying a Kucha road that leads to the burial ground of the Most Backward Caste. Photo: Ranjani Rajendra
Cuddalore: The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – 2005 (NREGA) came into effect on Feb.2 2006. Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu was one of the 200 districts where the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was adopted for the first phase. Two years since and the scheme is still in its nascent stage.The Act states that applicants should be given their job cards within 15 days of registering at the village Panchayat. And if this is not adhered to, the applicants should be paid ‘unemployment wages’ till the date of employment. But in Chinnakomati village of the Parangipettai Town Panchayat, over one-fourth of the households that the Digantik team visited, were unaware of the unemployment wages. The survey was part of a social audit conducted on behalf of District Collector, Cuddalore, Rajendra Ratnoo.
Numerous discrepancies regarding records surfaced during the course of the audit. In Pallipadai village, according to the NREGA registers with the Panchayat, the job cards seem to have been handed out a month or two before the card holder had applied. The applicants were not even issued the counterfoil receipts that they should be given on application for a job card.
The other problem was that people did not get the minimum 100 days of work promised under the Act. Most families get only 40 days of work on an average. The reason given by government officials was the arrival of the monsoons or the lack of work. Most of the work done under the NREGA is desilting of irrigation channels, renovation of existing ponds and formation of earthen roads. Work under the NREGA could be of any kind that excludes the use of machinery. Hence the officials, including the Block Development Officer (BDO) J. Natarajan said that allotment of work is not possible during the rains. Although many people testified that the NREGS was highly beneficial for them and they would like to continue with it, it has gone unnoticed by the officials.
Yet another drawback was that not all the labourers seemed to be aware of their rights and the provisions under the Act. As a result they did not know that they could go to the Gram Sabha and put forth their demands regarding NREGA projects. Even though the Gram Sabha decides on the work to be taken up, the sarpanch and other panchayat officials have the last word.
Most people who have registered and are given job cards do not work from mid-September to end of December. During January the landless labourers prefer to work on the fields as they earn more doing agricultural work. The NREGA in Cuddalore gives a daily wage of Rs 80 per individual , whereas the farm workers get Rs 100 per day. The government also ensures that no work is given during the harvesting season. This is another reason why the subscribed 100 days of work is not adhered to.
Another discrepancy that came to light was the fact that the labourers did not always earn the promised Rs 80 a day because they had not completed their share of work. The women in the region claimed that the work involved backbreaking tasks and due to this they often lose out on full pay. At the NREGA site in Kokupalayam village, Panruti block, several workers said they received only Rs 60 on an average. Technical assistant, Alamelu,said that they calculated the work completed by the entire group. If one individual in the group hadn’t completed the work given to him/her, the entire group lose out on their wages. The time duration taken to pay the workers money was also a source of concern. According to the Act, they should be paid their wages within seven days of them working, but this rule too has been flouted. Most people were paid after a month of them working on the site.
There have also been numerous cases of ‘ghost’ workers. In a number of cases the applicants’ photographs were missing from the records, which was essential to prevent fake cards from being issued. In other cases, fewer job cards being issued to a family than had been applied for. In Chinnakomati , most of the application forms that were in possession of the Panchayat were not dated. So there was no way to check when an applicant had submitted the form and, when and if the applicant had been given the job card on time.

Despite claims that measures were being taken to ensure proper implementation of the NREGA, which has tremendous potential, the numerous discrepancies that surfaced during our social audit showed otherwise.

Pattas no panacea: Irula sore with leaky roofs

Watery settlement: The 165 Irula houses in Kalaignar Nagar, constructed by the government with the help of NGO CREED, have rain water stagnation. This is due to the lack of proper drainage system provided at the settlement.
Cuddalore: The 165 Irula families, living in the Kalaingar Nagar of the Killai Block for the past three decades, are now burdened with maintenance and, electricity bills, health problems due to stagnant water and the lack of drinking water, thanks largely to post-tsunami housing programme. Earlier, they were living in kachcha houses made of thatched roofs and mud walls.
The Government and the Centre for Rural Education and Economic Development (CREED), and NGO completed the construction of these 165 houses, over six acres of land, by the end of 2006. The Irulas were also given pattas (land deeds) for their houses. Each housing unit is built over an area of 350 square feet at the cost of Rs 1.5 lakh, consisting of a small room that is also used as a common room, a kitchen, bed room and an attached toilet cum bathroom.
Block Development Officer (BDO) of Portonovo, P. Natarajan said, “This community was a second line victim of the tsunami. Water seeped into their houses, destroying them. We sought this opportunity to build houses for them.”
While the settlement, from a distance looks like a neat row of houses with cement roads, a closer look reveals stagnant water and a lack of a drainage. Residents complain of mosquitoes and other insects. A kilometer into the settlement and the cement road ends with 40 houses and the primary school where the Irula children study, without access. A resident, Rani, said, “We have asked both the government and the NGO repeatedly to complete the road on this stretch. They do not pay any heed to us. During the rains our children have to walk through the muddy waters to go to school.” Not surprisingly, most children skip school during heavy rains.The interior of the houses is also in a pathetic condition. Each house was provided with one bulb and one tube light, but in most cases either one or both do not work. A fisherman residing here, Ramalinga, said, “We are provided with electricity only from 6 pm to 10 am everyday. I have taken the bulb from the entrance of my house and fixed it inside as the tube light does not work.”
In addition are problems like leaking ceilings during the rains - a result of the poor maintenance of the houses. People complain they do not earn enough to feed themselves and cannot afford repairs. Another resident, Pushpa, said, “My husband earns only Rs 50 a day by selling fish. We barely have enough to feed our children. Adding to that they (the government) expects us to pay for the maintenance? Why can’t they do it?”
An anthropology student freelancing with CREED, Stefan Inglin, said, “While building the houses, the government did not consult the residents. They did not think of how the people would maintain the houses. They just built the houses with the intention of giving the Irulas a house.” He further added, “Even though the Irulas were given bulbs and tube lights, they have to foot the electricity bill.”
The Irulas refuse to use the toilets attached to their houses as they believe that the water used in the toilets is what they would get for their other household chores like cooking, drinking. The Director of CREED, Nadanasabhapathy, said, “We have provided them with two septic tanks, yet they refuse to use the toilets. What can we do?”
Drinking water is another problem that the community faces. Every house has been provided with a hand pump, but not all work. For every four water pumps, only one is functioning. People have to use their neighbours’ pumps. Rani said, “We have told the panchayat president innumerable times about this problem, but nothing has been done to solve it.” Neither the BDO nor the NGO commented on this. Nadanasabhapathy said, “Ensuring continuous water supply is not our job. The Panchayat has to do something about it.”

Being given a patta for their house has not solved the problem of the Irula tribe, instead, it has raised more complicated issues of maintenance and basic amenities.

Samiyarpettai’s fishing woes

Fishy tale: (From left) Rajendra, Subramani, Narayana and Vella, fishermen in Samiyar Pettai, removing their day's catch of Sardines from the fishing nets. Rajendra's mother Kasima (sitting in the centre) sorts the fishes for sale.

Samiyar Pettai: “I want my son to study and earn a better living than me, but I have no money. The banks refuse to give us loans, as we do not have any collateral. We are helpless,” said Subramani, a 55-year-old fisherman. Lack of money for education coupled with the problem of dwindling fish catch is cause of concern for the fishing community in Samiyar Pettai. Many of the fishermen are in debt.

Samiyar Pettai is a small fishing hamlet in the Portonovo block in Cuddalore, with a population of 2215. During the tsunami 24 lives were lost along with boats, motors and fishing nets. The fishermen were given token amounts of Rs 2000 to Rs 4000 by the government, but this was not enough to piece their lives back together. It’s been three years since the tsunami struck this village but the government refuses to pay heed to the villagers’ problems.

Rajendra, a 54-year-old fisherman said, “I lost my boat and nets during the tsunami. The government gave us boats but no motors. I am using my old motor. The amount given for our nets were not sufficient. We had to pay from our own pockets.” A new engine would approximately cost him Rs 40,000, which he said was unaffordable. He added, “We do not catch enough fish to even pay for our diesel. We earn Rs 50 per day and our monthly income is Rs 2000. We are in debt to meet our diesel costs.” Due to this a few fishermen prefer taking their thoni (small wooden boats traditionally used by fishermen) as it means lesser fuel costs.
Nahgayam is 50-years-old and she sells her husband’s catch in the market. She said, “The last two days we got good catch and we earned Rs 100 a day. But during the storms, when the sea is rough, the men cannot venture out and hence we do not earn for days.” She also added that during the 45-day ban imposed by the government between March and April, the fishermen are deprived of their livelihood. They do not have any alternative work during this period. The fisher folk are left with no choice but to dry the fish caught previously and sell the dried fish. Some of them make fish pickle, but the market for this is not very good.

The fishermen do not want their children to take up their profession, as they see no future in it. They are doing all they can to ensure that their children get good education. Even this is a burden for many, as they do not have the money to educate their children beyond the XII Std. Subramani, who took over his father’s thoni at the age of 15 said, “My son is studying in the XII Std. I want him to do engineering, but colleges are demanding Rs. 5 lakh just for reserving a seat. Other fees are additional.” He lamented that he could not get any loans from banks, as he had no collateral.

Four hundred fisher folk like Nahgayam have registered under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA). But this too has its own problems, as the fisher folk are allotted work irregularly. They work in the mornings at the NREGA site and come back by three in the afternoon. After which they eat and go fishing in the sea by six in the evening. But there are also fishermen like Rajendra and Vella who say that digging up roads and desilting ponds was not what their forefathers did and hence neither would they. Despite the problems faced by them while fishing, they are adamant about not doing any onshore work like digging. Rajendra emphasised, “We are not educated and hence there is no chance of us getting another job. But we will not do manual work.”

It's Up!

After two weeks of working our butt off, our site is up.

It's pretty cool if I say so myself. The design team has done a brilliant job and the edit team has done it too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I know its been a long time since I posted a blog, but cant help it. Life has been hell for the past one week.

We have been working 13 hours a day on getting our site ready. And all the hard work and tension has finally caught up with both the edit and site design teams. With tempraments changing as fast as F1 races and tempers rising, we have made lab 3 and lab 4 our homes. MJ trying to keep every one calm and collected and getting haggled herself.

Just cant wait for the site to be completed and uploaded tomorrow. After that a respite until the next gruelling work shop on multimedia begins next week.

Yes i shall blog a detailed account of my deprivation trip with lots of opinions over the weekend. And my articles too will be up on the blog. But please do visit our site, coz u have many more stories there.

Link to the site once its uploaded.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Indian’s back to barbaric times

The attack on the NDTV office in Ahemdabad for conducting a Bharat Ratna poll that included M.F Hussian shows how intolerant the Indian society is becoming. Being nominated for the poll was the reason for the barbarism being unleashed.

Cowardice is most suited to explain the character of the attackers. Why would any one who believes in what they are fighting for/against take up the disguise of anonymity. Or even worse, a mob? Why not stand up for what you believe in? If one strongly condemns the ‘Bharat mata’ painting by M.F Hussian, then they are entitled to their opinion. But this does not give them the right to vandalise a person’s property. And only because he was nominated for a poll.

This is not about a Muslim painter, but it is about Muslims at large. What is more intolerable to right wing Hindu activists - The fact that a Muslim dared to paint a ‘Bharat mata’? Or the fact that a Muslim did not understand the sentiments of the Hindus? But why do we forget that these are the same Hindu activists who did not think twice before scorching scores of Muslims only because they sought a place in a country they adopted as theirs after 1947 partition?

Is it wrong for Muslims to think of India s their own? Is it too much for them to ask that they be treated the same way as any other Indian? Why are they discriminated against on religion? India is most intolerant when it comes to caste and religion. We refuse to talk about it in the open, but we practice it in hushed tones.

A recent incident at Modi’s event in Kamaraj Arangam in Chennai was an eye-opener. This taught us that to be a Muslim at a Hindu function is the biggest crime a Muslim can commit in a secular country like India.

Two young Muslim boys who decided to attend the ‘Tuglaq’ magazine event on 14th Jan were in for a rude shock. They were taken to the police station and harassed only because they were Muslims. And one of them was not an Indian, but a neighbouring country’s citizen. The police accused them of being Muslim extremists who might have been at the event to cause communal disharmony.

When will we stop this unjustifiable act of discrimination? We are no different from the Americans when it comes to treating Muslims. The high-handedness and the arrogant way in which we portray that the Indian society seems like it is all about Hindu beliefs.

If a Muslim decides to make his presence be felt in any manner what so ever, he will be gunned down. Like an illegitimate.

Caste Discrimination

P. Sainath has done it again with his article "Discrimination for dummies: V.2008"

This is one article that comprehensively talks about caste discrimination at all levels. Be it education, marriage, jobs, reservations, food, water - name it and you have it. It might be hard to digest, what with the neo-youth claiming reservations are not about caste, but merit. But its de truth, we refuse to acknowledge it's caste.

We paint a thick coat of "merit" on everything we do. If thats the case then how many of those who go to the STATES to their masters go on merit?? Is it not because they can afford to pay their Rs 10 lakh (minium) fees?? Even if they don't have the money, how many of them are refused bank loans on the basis of caste?? Not one, cause the lower caste wouldn't even cross the border of their intra-states. How many are refused loans due to lack of collaterals?

Scotty boy proves that all boys are jerks!

Silky black coat on his back with a few stray grey hairs on his head, he sits on the balcony soaking in the hot afternoon sun. Turning his face ever-so-slightly so that the sun doesn't blind his eyes. A few minutes of this and he starts sniffing in the air, bolts from his lazy posture and sprints to the kitchen.

Sitting on the kitchen floor is Kasi amma, shredding the boiled chicken for our dinner kebaabs. She is soon joined by the man with the shiny black coat, and before she knows it, he leaps onto her. She is startled by his behaviour, he has never done this before. This is a first. "Why is he doing this?" asks Kasi amma. The next few minutes happen in fast motion, she doesn't understand what is going on in the Kitchen and with her, until she sees the plate of shredded chicken and the bones on the floor. My dog, Scott, eating it up as though it were quick silver. He, the man with the shiny black coat, was the most well behaved gentleman in my house. Until this day. Mom says its because of his old age. Scott turned 10 on Nov 5, 2007. That should make him old and wise, but he seems to me like a kid. He was better behaved when he was a pup.

He snaps at mom when she reprises him for his bad behaviour. He looks at her, with a mean look in his eyes (replicating the look of a bad-very bad Doberman, well atleast he tries!). He growls and on mom further screaming at him while trying to pull away the lilltle chicken left, he finally goes "snap-bite-snap". Mom is taken aback with his behaviour. She always believed he was the better behaved of her children. My brother gleefully sqeals, "See, I don't snap at you!"
Psst psst, think my lill bro has forgotten all the times that he has snapped at my mom, verbally!

That day Scott didn't get any food. Mom decided that enough was enough. Old age was no excuse for bad behaviour. But that's not where Scott's misbehaviour ended.
As he did not get his lunch, he decided to show his disappointment in my mom. Scott did his poop just outside the balcony, our DINING ROOM! Mom was so furious it's not funny.

Scott was the one man in my life who hadn't proved he was a jerk. But yesterday he did.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Natalia's Reference letter

The day my cousin does ask me to write her a reference letter for her graduation in Forensic Pyschology Crime and Deviance , it will read like this:

My cousin is the most suited person for this course because she is the craziest and most erratic woman in our family. She gets weird mood swings which only she can understand. She understands the pyschology of a dog cause she bites like one. This was after she got bitten by a pomeranian at the age of nine. She got 14 injections and ever since then, she shares an unbreakable bond with them. She is a neo-pyschopath with all the frills of a Forensic Pyschology expert. Nats will be the best person to crack cases. After all her suspects think like her!

Love you Nats, inspite of your crazy whacky self! Mwaaaahhhh.

Cranky, sleepy, murderous and deprived!

Okaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy... I'm suffering from one of my mood swings. Lots of reasons and then again nothing in particular for my mood!

Spent all afternoon listening to Kishore Kumar with a few other friends while writing our stories. Yea, the covering deprivation trip (more details on that when I'm done writing the stories) does that to you. I came back with an allergy (is what I think), but the dermatologist says its an "exaggerated insect bite!". Yea right, thats why I've been itching all over for the last few days?? BULL CRAP! I feel like a tomato field with red boils all over me.

Now for the cranky and sleepy part, add the above reason to the fact that I havent slept well in the past few days. This also for the reason mentioned above. I'm on this weird allergy (insect allergy?? ask the doc!) antibiotic which makes me drowsy at the wrong times. Like for instance, when I have got this sudden urge to write my story and its all flowing through my head. But the left part of my brain argues with the right part and the Winner isssssssssssss the Left! Have a few hundred stories to write and am suffering from WRITER"S BLOCK. Okay. I agree few hundred is pulling it a bit too much, but it's ummmm well you can definitely count them on your fingers! :P

Murderous cause whatever I've written until now is just not acceptable. It has to be revised, re-revised, re-re-revised and then edited and then loads more editing. Argggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.. Trust me it sounds much more simpler than it really is!

Deprived - cause I want sleep, I want a non-itchy body and I want Peruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.