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31 October 2013

Meeting my Ex-boss...

I just met my Ex-boss at the airport. He was my boss for about 5 years at a key point in my career.

I had just got into IT (Information Technology) career after about 10 years in manufacturing and 2 years in Academia. I was into an area called ERP (Enterprise-wide Resources Planning) and was implementing ERP solutions across multiple companies across South India.

He became my boss after about one year into my IT career and was my boss for about 5 years covering two phases. The first phase lasted for about 3 years in company 1. In this phase, our relationship was excellent. We had very good rapport and understanding. May be it was because my interactions with him were few and far between. He used to work out of our Company HQ and I used to be at various customer sites for up to three to six months at a stretch implementing ERP.

He used to respect me for my knowledge. I used to respect him for his fairness and the effort that he was putting in despite his limitations. 

Ours was a small company. I think in the end, his limitations became highly visible to the management and he decided to leave. I think the feeling was mutual between him and the company on the need for him to leave.

From a small company, he joined a very big company. I think his new role was a letdown for him but he valiantly soldiered on. While he was a delivery head in the previous company, in the new company he was asked to join as a Project Manager (which is one level lower in the IT management hierarchy) for a large ERP Implementation for one of the most prestigious companies in India. 

He had a requirement for a competent consultant in his project. He asked me to join his team. And I did.

This was the beginning of second phase of our relationship.

Since the project was prestigious and big, it was also stressful. Any minor issue was escalated into the highest levels of our company management and every two days some top shot or other from our company visited our site to 'Review' the project and discuss with the Project Manager. Every one of such ‘Reviews’ started with the assumption that the Project Manager was not doing a good job. So these reviews invariably were stressful for my boss. In addition to this, the project was very complex with lots of customizations to the application. 

Coupled with the fact that my boss was not technically equipped to manage such complex projects and you had a recipe for disaster. Throughout his career, he had been a people manager and had not spent time developing his skill-set in the technical area.

Finally, when you consider that we had one or two very difficult people in our team, who were filled with hubris about their knowledge of the application and were arrogant to the point of being offensive,  you can imagine how any boss could have shot his bolt.

There was always a suppressed element of short temper in my boss. The stress in the project made it explicit. 

Initially the relationship between me and my boss was very cordial, in fact very friendly in a personal sort of way. Over the course of time the stress took its toll and the relationship deteriorated. 

I couldn't understand my boss's inability to see the big picture. He couldn't understand why I was taking decisions related to my area without informing him. To be fair, I felt that I was taking technical decisions in my domain and within my purview and my boss felt that I was trying to upstage him.

I was also under a lot of stress. In addition to my key role in this very complex project, I was also handling a solution which was not tested, implementing an area (costing) that I had never done in my life, and was also leading the team implementing the Financial Solution part in the implementation. I was also pursuing a two year Management Program at a prestigious management institute in Bangalore. The course load was very high and the demands were tough.

As mentioned earlier, over a period of time, our relationship deteriorated. I am also not perfect and was prone to my share of temper and irritation. And normally an ERP implementation adds to the stress by its constant and invasive demands on your intellect. In addition an ERP consultant also has to handle some recalcitrant team members from the client side, who are afraid that ERP implementation will make them redundant.

So I was stressful, my boss was stressful and both of us had short temper.

Classic recipe for disastrous relationship.

Gradually we stopped exchanging pleasantries. Our communication simply became formal and official. I used to send him the status report. He used to send me formal mails.

The customer team quickly started taking advantage of this conflict. They started complaining about me to my boss and about my boss to me. By this time I had also established my position in the project and it was widely known that I will take over this project once my boss leaves.

Things reached a crescendo one day. We were planning to go for UAT (User Acceptance Test). It was a Friday. I had classes to attend.

The previous day, I had modified a configuration to meet a specific requirement from the customer. It was done late in the evening and my configuration change had to be followed up with some changes to a custom code. The team which was supposed to make the code changes took their time.

UAT was to start in the morning. The delay in code change ensured that the start of UAT was delayed.

When my boss heard that the UAT is delayed, he lost his temper. And he can be nasty when he lost his temper. Months and months of stress had taken their toll and he was extremely nasty that day.

I was not there in the office when my boss lost his temper and started shouting at the team. The team couldn't take the stress and informed him that I had made the changes which led to the change in code.

He called me over the phone and shouted at me while I was still in class. I told him that I will talk to him once I am in office.

When I reached office, I saw a very stressed out team and a very angry boss. Even before I kept my bag in my seat, my boss started shouting at me with everyone in the office - our team, customers, clerks, peons- in hearing distance.

I couldn't take it any longer. I asked him for a personal meeting.

In this meeting I gave him a piece of my mind. I told him that as a boss it is his responsibility to understand what changes I had done and why this was important for the project. I told him that in an ERP implementation, it is expected that the PM has technical knowledge. I basically told him that he did not know what he was talking about and if he did not know the technology, he should not be talking to a technical consultant.

He also gave me his piece of mind. He told me that he was aware for some time that I was trying to take his place (which I wasn’t) and that he was sorry that he brought me into his team.

We had a mutually satisfactory meeting, both of us having spoken our minds.
*******************************************************************************
Today I met him at the airport. The old rancor still lingered. The communication was affected and the smile was artificial. The effect of a year of stressful relationship was not going to go away in one casual meeting at the airport.

After leaving him, I started thinking as to why the rancor remained. Was I guilty? Of course, our relationship had become formal. May be I was still holding a grudge for all the stress that he gave me in the project. Was it worth holding the grudge? Wasn't it time for me to move on? He had moved on out of my life, I had moved on out of his. So why this casual meeting was affecting me like this? Why was I uncomfortable after this two minute meeting?

Was I still living in the ‘Psychological Time’ of my project days? Or did seeing him now bring back all the bad memories and the associated feelings and emotions? I don’t have an answer.

More importantly, knowing what I know now, how would I have handled the situation differently?

I would have done differently in two areas. Communication and escalation.

1. I would have communicated more regularly. I would have discussed my decision and got his buy in before I decided some of the things I decided. Of course, this is me speaking in retrospect, so I can only generalize.

2. I would have escalated my risks higher in the organization. I remember that I had written multiple mails to my boss's boss and kept the same in my draft folder without sending. This is an area where I have improved over the years. I don't keep my frustrations to myself now. I escalate the same to the right people in the organization. Of course, now I am in a role where I have to handle other's frustrations, but it doesn't mean I don't have any.

One lives and learns, doesn't one?

30 October 2013

The Failed Project...

No one likes a failure. Especially me when it comes to ERP / Business Solution Implementation. I take justifiable pride in more than 20 odd successful ERP implementations that I have been a part of and a good number of customers who are very happy that I was a part of ERP Implementation in their company. I take pride in my Business Knowledge, my process knowledge and my implementation expertise.  

I could fail in other endeavours (I can give you a number of examples) but when it comes to ERP Implementation, I am good.

That is why my first failure as a Project Manager hurt like crazy. 

I tell you, it hurts. Being a part of a failed project, that is. You personally feel the pain and suffering of the customer users, you feel the stress undergone by people who trusted you and put their faith in your expertise, you feel the hurt of having letdown yourself.

Even if you know that you are not at fault, you feel pain and remorse.

Let me tell you what happened.

This project was to manage the implementation of CRM Solutions for a customer. I had an excellent relation with this customer. My relation had started off as a small engagement and continued on to a bigger engagement. Both these engagements were in the area of ERP, which was my expert area. Both of these projects were very successful and I received 5/5 rating for my effort in both these engagement.

The second engagement was a long term complex engagement. It started off in 2008 and completed in 2010 and like I mentioned above, I got very good rating from the customer.

Based on the work that I had done in the area of ERP, our company received an offer to implement CRM Solutions for this company. CRM is not my area of expertise. However, I already had a work permit to work in this country and a since a work permit is expensive, I was asked to take ownership of this project. Even though I was in the middle of my second engagement, I accepted the challenge to manage this project also.

That was my first mistake.

The second mistake was in not having a good oversight of the work of my team. There are very few CRM implementers in the world. There are many consultants who know the CRM Application. However consultants who conceptually know the marketing functions and who can map the concepts to the application are few and far between.

In addition, CRM implementation is expensive and not a 'Necessary' solution for a customer. Hence many customers do not opt for CRM Solutions. So a consultant has very few opportunities to become a part of a CRM implementation. Many consultants do ‘patch up’ work, creating reports and resolving bugs. This means that a consultant who knows CRM application and who has implemented this in a customer site is even scarcer...

So a typical consultant is having no conceptual knowledge, no implementation experience at an actual customer site and do not have a conceptual understanding of the Sales and Marketing function in an organization, which CRM tries to implement.

Sure recipe for disaster, won't you say?

Just because of their knowledge of CRM Application and because of the high demand of CRM solution for the customers, these consultants will always be in demand. Half baked knowledge coupled with high demand for that knowledge is the sure fire cause of arrogance. Many of the consultants in India (whom I have interacted with) are arrogant, and this adds to the problems for the Project Manager.

This was my team.

It was not that our organization was not aware of the risk. The arrogance of the CRM consultants was known widely in our organization. But, we have to manage with what we have and I had to manage with the hand that I was given.

As the project progressed, it was clear that it was not going fine. There was communication failure among the team. Ours was a small organization and I had joined newly in the Organization. Some of the consultants in my team were known to the CEO of our company and my CEO used to directly communicate with this consultant bypassing me and thereby weakening my role.

Plus, there were all these resignation. Just like a ripe mango falling off a tree, CRM Consultants from my company started leaving in droves. It wasn't that my company was not good. It had a reputation in the market for quality. However, these consultants were in demand and market was ready to pay 100 % premium for some of them.

It was just a coincidence that mine was the only big CRM implementation going on at that time and hence some good people from my team left in the middle of the project. 

In addition there was question of professionalism of our team.

Let me give an example.

The organization (where we were implementing) had two applications running. One was the new CRM Application and the other was the existing ERP application. It was important that the data in both applications should be synchronized on a regular basis. The ERP application was the master application and was the source of the data. There was no automatic process to transfer the updated data in ERP Application to the CRM Application.

This is a common problem in any implementation. You need to develop what is known as ‘Interface Scripts’ which will pull data from a source application and update data in the target application. I called a meeting to discuss this.

Here is meeting  No.1.

Customer (CUS): We update the product data in ERP, it has to get updated in CRM Applications. We are ready to do the work. Tell us how we should proceed?

My Team Lead (MTL): There is no direct integration between ERP and CRM. You have to enter the data manually in CRM.

CUS: That is not possible for two reasons. One, every week we update nearly 200 Products in ERP. We cannot enter all the products manually in CRM. Two, even if we manually enter the data, there could be mismatches. We can pull the data in Excel and you have to design a solution to push the data in CRM

MTL: OK, I will look into this...

End of meeting 1

Now for meeting 2, held two weeks later.

CUS: Last meeting we discussed about an interface to push Product Data into CRM. You were supposed to come back to me. We haven’t received any communication from you.

MTL: There is no direct integration between ERP and CRM. You have to enter the data manually in CRM.

CUS: As we discussed in the last meeting, manual update is not possible for two reasons. One, every week we update nearly 200 Products in ERP. We cannot enter all the products manually in CRM. Two, even if we manually enter the data, there could be mismatches. We can pull the data in Excel and you have to design a solution to push the data in CRM

MTL: OK, I will look into this...

This went on for 4 meetings. After which the customer gave up.

You will ask me as to why I continued with this team even when I knew that the team was not good. Remember the point about expensive and time consuming process to get the Work Permits to work in that country? That acted as an ‘Exit Barrier’ for me to remove this team (specifically this team lead).

Over a period of time, it became very clear that the project was going to fail. Some of it was attributed to the lack of competency of the team, but most of it was related to the fact that the CRM product was not capable of handling the level of detail required by the customer.

Finally, after more than 10 months, the customer called off the project. Our company was forced to pay compensation and the project came to a tumultuous end.

I still cringe when thinking of this failed project.

What is the lesson that I learned out of this?

The most important lesson is that in project, as in life, nothing matters other than decision making. As soon as I saw that the project was not going fine, I should have alerted the stakeholders and should have taken a decision to call off the project. I went on escalating till cows came home, but abdicated the responsibility of taking hard decisions. In retrospect, I should have simply informed my customer that we are not able to execute this project and that we need to call it off.

As soon as I found that my team lead was not performing to expectations, I should have asked him to leave, damn the 'exit barrier'. That is another decision that I did not make.

Nothing else matters in the end. Only the decisions that you make matter... 

28 October 2013

Every task has to be done twice...

Mr.Stephen Covey, in his book '7 Habits of Highly Effective People', says that every task that you do should be done twice. No exceptions.

You can either 'Plan and Do' or you can 'Do and Rectify'. (Mr.Covey does not mention these terms. These are terms that I coined from the gist of the book)

You can 'Plan and Do'. Before starting the task, do the same once in your mind. Plan the work entirely, completely, thoroughly. If you have, in your team, a person who is good in planning, involve him in this exercise. Mentally visualize the process. Go to as much details as possible. For instance, I used to work with a lady who was very good in visual planning. Once we were planning a conference together. The day prior to the conference, we went to the conference hall to see the layout. At the hotel, she mind mapped the seating of entire 100 people attending the conference. She planned where each volunteer will stand, what will be the visual cues to expect from the invitees, the signals to be given to each other to communicate requirements...

You know, the entire conference was planned.

She even planned for a probability of physically challenged attending and planned seats for them also. She arranged for physical connectivity for all the presenters  least the Wireless router conks off !!

Now,  that is planning. Let me give you another example, The Institute that I was studying was planning to hold an international conference in October of next year. They started sending out information to the participants sometime in March of the year. Imagine their surprise when in the month of April they received an entire plan from the leader of German delegation informing them or their travel plans including two day holiday plan !!

Now, that is planning. 

One part of planning is to anticipate what can go wrong (risks) and contingencies. Your planning should be like 'If this happens, this is how we will tackle it'. This is called 'Risk and Mitigation Planning'. Another plan is related to the infrastructure required, including special needs (planning for elderly, sick, children, physically challenged, visually challenged), sudden absence of a keynote speaker, sudden availability of an eminently qualified speaker who was not in the original list etc

Once you plan, the execution can become very smooth. 

That is 'Plan and Do'.

That is not how most of us do stuff. We 'Do and Rectify', we struggle with the consequences much like a novice swimmer jumping into the deep side of a swimming pool. We plan a party and do not plan food for the main guest who is a diabetic. We start a project without the right people. We start a road trip without considering the brutally cold nights...The list is endless.

Why, we even go out without an umbrella in the rainy season !

There are two main deleterious effects of 'Do and rectify'. One some of the errors are non-reversible. For example, in an ERP Implementation project (my livelihood) some of the configurations cannot be reversed one a transaction has been done in the application. So if you start configuring application without proper planning (believe me, many do), you are left with a long term disaster which is not easy to manage.

Even if they are reversible, some of the errors leave a mark. It is like being hurt by a close friend who later apologized. You forgive, but do not forget. Also, unplanned tasks, with monetary impact, can hurt the relationships. 

Ask any IT sales person who did not get repeat business !!

In his book, 'The secrets of leadership', author Mr.Prakash Iyer tells the story of a boy who was suffering from short temper. His father tells him to hit a nail on the wooden fence every time he gets angry. The boy does as told. Initially the frequency of nailing is very high and tapers off over the period of three months. By the fourth month, the boy has stopped nailing nails in the fence.

By this time, the fence is filled with nails.

Now the father asks him to remove a nail from the fence every time he gets angry. Now that the boy do not have frequent episodes of anger, the 'Nail removal' process takes longer time, about a year. 

Finally, at the end of 18 months, boy proudly informs the father that he has removed all the nails and he is totally free of anger. 

The father takes him to the fence. It is filled with holes where nails were hit earlier. Father tells the son, "See son, hitting the nails is like hurting some one and removing the nails is like apologizing later. Even if you have removed the nails, even though you have apologized, the marks left by your temper still lingers on." 

Isn't this story applicable to the effects left by the 'Do and Rectify' method? (Of course, the author was conveying a different message in his book). But this is what 'Do and Rectify' do. They leave a mark.

Take this recent case of the rollout of Obamacare website. This is a classic case of 'Do and Rectify' approach. I have no doubt that the issues plaguing the website will be rectified. But the negative publicity and the loss of confidence of the public on the government will linger on. 

How can you overcome the 'Do and rectify' menace?

One approach is for you to get a good planner in your team. Even if you can't  a good planner, you can  identify a good planner (Lets say her name is Mary) and ask yourself the question, 'what would Mary do in this situation?'. The moment you start regularly thinking like Mary, you are on the path to 'Plan and Do'.

Finally, why do people get into the 'Do and Rectify' mode? Many a times it is due to lack of knowledge of the implications. But you are excused only once ( for getting into 'Do and Rectify' mode). Once you understand the consequences of this behaviour, you are expected to move to 'Plan and Do' mode.

As they say,  'Cheat me once.....'

Why brilliant minds are avoiding Govt. Sector?

Caveat: The views expressed here are my personal views. Only contribution from my relative was the information that they are getting Rs.200 per day as Stay allowance in Mysore for attending the symposium. This was written in 2008, I think. Now things may have changed.

One of my relatives and her husband work for the most high profile Government Department in India, in one of the premier Centers in India. They have been there for the last 15 years and more. Both are highly qualified, he with an MTech and she is a PhD with Masters in Nuclear Physics.

She has had a number of articles published in various international journals and both are respected for their contribution to the organization.

Recently they came to Mysore to attend a symposium organized by the Mysore University and sponsored by the department.

Do you know how much is their per day allowance on staying in a hotel? A measely 200.00 per day. That is right, just Rs.200. Anything beyond that, they have to pay from their pocket. Where can you get a hotel accommodation for two at Rs.200 per day, please tell me? In Bangalore, the minimum rate in a decent hotel with bare minimum necessities is around 2000 per day. Here the company gives them Rs. 200. They might as well not give any money at all.

What nonsense? Is this the way you treat some of the country's brilliant minds working for a premier institution of which all Indians are proud of? Can't you see that the country has changed significantly? At a time when a college grad with a basic degree and good English speaking skills can get a job at 7 lakhs per annum in a place like Coimbatore, is it fair to treat these highly qualified people so cheaply? I remember, when I got out of Engineering college, getting into this Organization was as difficult as getting into IIT. I tried two times and failed. I am now glad that I failed to get in.

This has been the problem with the Govt. services right from beginning. The practice started from the time india adopted the 'Socialist' model of development (?) which saw people like my relative as 'exploiters' and hence to be 'taken care of ' by providing the bare necessities. It was ok so long as jobs were not available in plenty as was the case in those days. But now the things have changed significantly. There are much more opportunities available. Especially for minds such as these. I am sure that if they were in any other country they would have been treated with much more respect and gratitude than being treated in this most demeaning way in our own country.

Tail Piece: I understand that these Organizations are finding it very difficult to recruit new trainees and are facing an acute talent shortage in the lower and middle levels. 

I wonder why?.....

27 October 2013

30 Days, 30 Veggies, Day 8: Gobi (Cauliflower) fry

Every warrior has a weapon called 'Brahmastra' in their armory. This is a highly dependable and effective weapon. It can unleash mass destruction (which is 'Effective' for a warrior).

But the problem? A 'Brahmastra' can be used only once.

To know that she has a 'Brahmastra' in her armory is a huge confidence booster for a warrior. It gives her the kick. Since she knows that this can be used only once, she becomes master at using all the other weapons in her armory. She is very careful of when to use her greatest weapon.

For me Gobi Fry is the 'Brahmastra' of the vegetables when it comes to writing this series on 30 Days, 30 Veggies.

I like (or shall I say, Love) Gobi (Cauliflower). Prepared in any form, give me Gobi if you want to see me smile. Gobi in dry form, Gobi with Gravy...I dig them.

Since I like Gobi so much, it is no wonder that I also loves cooking Gobi. Every once in a while, I prepare Gobi Fry. I find it very easy to prepare and quite tasty and healthy too.

Knowing that I can always depend on Gobi Fry to fill this series was a great confidence booster as I embarked on this '30 Days, 30 Veggies' series. I purchased Gobi and preserved it like gold. I forced myself to prepare other vegetable preparations. I ventured into unchartered territory when I prepared 'Yam' fry, 'Cabbage Poriyal' and 'Banana Thoran'. I listed down all the different vegetables that I can cook in 30 days and kept Gobi to the last. It was my Brahmastra. I could prepare it any time.

When I found that the Gobi in my fridge (Short for Refrigerator) was starting to get damaged, I decided to cook Gobi.

Of course it came out well.

Here is the recipe.

1. Jeera (Cumin Seeds), a pinch
2. Garlic (3-4 pods chopped fine)
3. Curry leaves, 4-5
4 Ginger Grated, 1/ 2 teaspoon
5. Oil, 2 Table spoons
6. Cinnamon sticks, 2 small ones

a. Add oil in a pan and allow it to heat.
b. Once it is heated add Jeera and allow to splutter
c. Add all the other ingredients listed above and saute for about 2 minutes in medium heat.

7. Onion, 1/2 cup chopped
8. Tomato, 1.2 cup chopped

d. Add onion to the above mix and keep stirring till Onion turns translucent / Golden Brown
e. Add Tomato and mix thoroughly. Saute for two minutes

9. Haldi Powder, Coriander Powder, Red chilli Powder - Each a pinch
10. Salt to taste

f. Add all the powders and salt and heat for two minutes till the masala (Mix of all of the above) is integrated well. Also the smell of Raw Powder should be replaced by the 'fry' smell

11. Cauliflower, cut fine, 2 Cups
12. Water, 2 Table spoonsful
13. Coriander leaves, chopped, for topping.

g. Add the Cauliflower and a bit (two tablespoons) of water and mix thoroughly
h. Cook covered in medium flame for 10 minutes
i. Gobi Fry is ready. Top it with coriander leaves for good aroma

There goes my Brahmastra !!

What are the health benefits of Gobi?

Here it is

26 October 2013

Ode to a blender...What the heck?

I was reading this very amusing and informative article in the Slate.

The topic? A blender...The author, Ms.Catherine Price, is going gaga over a blender with a brand name of Vitamix.

This is the article  I am talking about

Article about a blender? That too two pages? What the....?

My mother calls it a 'Mixie' (Not the article, the equipment. It is short for Mixer / Grinder). I tell her about this article. She is incredulous. Someone has written an article on Mixie? she wonders aloud. These Americans must be crazy. Give them a pen and they will write just about anything. 

Mom throws in a stereotype, just like that.

Not Mixie, mom, blender. The article is about a blender. I correct her.

Mixie, blender, 'shender'...What is the difference? After all it is only a Mixie.

No mom, not Mixie, blen....I give up.

She sees the pic of the blender. Oh, she says, fully comprehending what I am talking about. This is a 'Juicer'.

No, mom, not Juicer. Blender...I am exasperated.

Ok, mom condescendingly agrees. If that is what you want to call it.

She has all the reason to look down upon Vitamix. She has seen better and worse.

You see, grinding is in the blood of Indian women. You go to any part of the country, you will find three things common. One, a potato preparation, two, a mixed vegetable preparation and three, 'Mixie' (I will use the Indian term here).

Almost all the Indian preparation require you to grind a few things. These include Onion, Ginger, Garlic and Curry leaves, with coconut thrown in for good measure. It is not that the Indians coarse grind the mixture. Mixture has to become like a smoothie. The physical difference that separates Onion from Coconut must be eviscerated and they should blend into a 'Smooth' metaphysical existence.

The point is that the ingredients must be ground very smoothly preferably without water. 

We Indians believe that we are all a part of the whole and we are not separate from the whole. The Mixie applies this philosophy to the vegetables it comes in contact with. 

The American blenders, oh, those sensitive blenders, with their high quality stainless steel blades and the translucent body, are no match for the Mixie. I should know. I was in Colombia, South America for two years and every day I struggled to grind these stuff in the blender. The vegetables though living together refused to integrate with each other and preferred to retain their individuality.

Like some disfunctional family or something.

Indians have been grinding stuff from time immemorial. In South India, the place where I come from, our staple food is Dosa (Indian Salted Pancake) and Idli (Indian Rice and Lentil Dimsum). Unlike in West where people purchase pancake powder and mix it with eggs and water and stuff, we Indians prefer making the mixture the hard way.

First we sock Rice and Urad Dal (Black Gram) in the ratio of 3:1 (3 cups of rice to 1 cup of dal) in water for about two hours. Then we grind them separately to a fine paste (just like smoothie). Then we add salt and mix them together and keep for fermenting. The fermentation process takes about 8 hours. Once fermented, we keep the mix in a refrigerator and use it over a week to prepare Dosas or Idly. 

The key word is grinding. To grind rice and black gram will need a sturdy grinder, one which can grind the same in about 4 minutes. This is where Mixie comes in.

All the latest grinders serve two purposes. One is mixing and the other is grinding. So we go and buy a Mixer / Grinder. 

A mixer / grinder ('Mixie') is a Sine Qua Non in the armory of an Indian women. In our community (Tamil Brahmin), the Mixie is a part of the Dowry that a girl brings when she gets married. The others are Gold Ornaments, Silver vessels and Stainless steel vessels. The girl can come without the later. But god forbid a girl who comes to her husband's home without a 'Mixie'.

The author (Ms.Catherine Price) in the Slate article talks of the high level of noise that the Vitamix produces. Come to India. This country is famous for its sights and sounds. The Sound of Mixie running is the national sound of India at 6.30 AM. I don't know what is the decibel level of the 'Mixie' here. But judging by the fact that I can hear a Mixie running in a house 100 meters away....(the author trails off).

Indian women can grind anything in her mixie. Even Stones.

I am not joking. Many a times, the rice we purchase contain stones. No amount of careful filtering can remove them. So this also goes into the rice mix for the 'Mixie' to do a 'Smooth' job.

The most stressful situation for an Indian male in a house is when Mixie conks off. Once it conks off, there is frustration, irritation, blame throwing ('I told you to buy Prestige Mixie, you went and procured Jyoti Mixie, just because it was 50 rupees cheaper. I told you that Jyoti is not good quality') and hunger all around...

Most men can't stand the stress. Suggest our wives that we go without grinding for a few days and see the explosion in the house. ('Without grinding? We might as well eat Pizza Daily. What are you saying?')

So they (the husbands) go and buy an extra 'Mixie'. Most Indian houses have at least two Mixies. Our house has three. Just in case...

It is not that Indians have not been grinding in the Pre-Mixie days. After all Mixie is just a recent innovation. Before that we had what is known as 'Attu Kallu' and 'Ara Kallu', two types of grinding stones ('Kallu' means Stone and 'Attu' and 'Arai' are two different connotations of the word grind), one to grind Rice and Black Gram for Dosas and the other to grind masala (Onion, coconut, Ginger etc). In both these, one has to physically grind for about 30 minutes.

Attu Kallu

Ara Kallu
It is tough.

Again, I should know. In the guise of 'helping me build my muscles', my mother made me grind kilograms of Rice and tons of masala. In those 'all believing' days, I did a lot of grinding in the grinding stones, often for 30 minutes at a stretch, just so that the house members can eat their fluffy Dosas. As the eldest son, I bore the brunt and by the time  my brothers reached the 'Grinding' age, the mechanical machines, the 'Mixies' had arrived.

And the muscles never did.

Ms.Price purchased this blender for $489. A superior quality Indian Mixie will cost about Rs.6000, which is about $100 at the current exchange rate.

So, Ms.Price, pardon me for my amused indulgence at your article on Vitamix. 

Little doth you ken.

(PS: At various points in this article, I have mentioned my mom. Of course, all that communications is imaginary.Mom never stereotypes people. It is just my Artistic Liberty Speaking)

25 October 2013

Are you really equal to your equal?

There is an Agony Aunt column written by Cary Tennis in The Salon
I like the column. The problems being mentioned are very real and personal and Mr.Tennis never underplays a problem or become personal. Some of his advise are excellent. 
More importantly, some of the comments to the column provide more learning than the column itself.
Like this comment by a reader to a problem raised by a lady.
The complainant was a 42 year old lady who had never married and did not have kids. Despite being beautiful and successful, she never got around to getting married. As she put it, 'she could not find her equal'. Now she was 42, Unmarried, Childless and looking forward to the future with fear and anxiety. 
The comment from one of the reader's is very illuminating. It teaches us a lot about the world and about ourselves. 
Here is the comment. Read on...
Are you really equal to your equal?
I wish I could cite the book where I once read this theory, but all I can do is admit that it is not original with me. Essentially, the idea was this:
Imagine that people are ranked from 1 to 10, not just according to physical beauty, but factoring in all other positive attributes, like intelligence, sense of humor, and socio-economic status. By the principle of independent assortment, the 10's will marry the 10's (why should they settle for less?). The 9's might want a 10, but the 10's are already with other 10's, so they marry other 9's. And so on down the list. There was a mean-spirited remark I used to hear in high school: "uglies for the ugly." I hated it, but I guess the idea is that the 1's end up marrying the 1's.
There is one problem with this logic. Someone who is a 6 might simply be unwilling to settle for another 6, though that is all he is worth. Nothing short of an 8 will do for him. He may date an 8 occasionally, but somehow things never work out. As a result he will never marry. In other words, the further down the list you go, the more you will find people who refuse to settle.
Consider your remark: "I was never willing to settle. I wanted a husband who was my equal ...." Forgive me for saying this, but perhaps you overrate yourself. What you consider your equal may actually be a point or two above you.
This does not mean you should lower your standards. If you are, say, a 6 who just can't settle for anything less than an 8, you would not be happy with another 6, and there is nothing you can do about it.
As one guy put it (again, I can't remember where I read this): "For years I looked for the perfect woman. And then I finally found her. Unfortunately, she was looking for the perfect man."
Even if you accept this analysis as applicable to your situation, it may not help you with your sense that your life has no meaning. But I have found that it sometimes helps to know why you are unhappy, even if there isn't anything you can do about it.

When I was reading this comment, I was thinking of people I know, who for all practical purposes should rank high up there - they are handsome, intelligent, kind, generous etc - but due to their inferiority complex, consider themselves to be much lower in the scale than they actually are.

So who knows, you may actually be 8 or 9, but consider yourself to be 3-4. It is important that you wake up and realize your potential.

Human mind works in mysterious ways !!

24 October 2013

30 Days 30 Veggies: Day7: Banana (Vazhakkai) Thoran

There are four kinds of vegetable preparations specific to my state, Kerala in India.

1. Thoran: This is a dry preparation of vegetables cooked with grated coconut mix. Coconut give a flavour to the vegetables and keep the vegetable cubes separate from each other.

2. Mezhukkupuratti: This tongue twister of a name simply means 'Coverd with oil'. This uses more oil than the thoran and is normally prepared without coconut. Oil covers the vegetables and act as a separator. This is also mostly dry. Check out my recipe for Day 6

3. Upperi: This is pure fry in Oil. These are called 'Chips' in English

4. Koottu: This is a vegetable preparation with gravy. It uses less oil and more water. Normally the vegetables are prepared with lentils and socked in Coconut gravy. Since it uses less oil, it is normally very healthy.

I had some coconut at home and decided to prepare Raw Banana Fry. It was the first time that I was preparing this and it turned out to be pretty good.

Ingredients

1. Raw Bananas: 2 numbers cut into small cubes
2. Haldi (Turmeric) powder: A pinch
3. Salt: To taste.

Boil the above three together till banana turns softish. Drain excess water.

4. Coconut Grated: Two Spoons
5. Cumin seeds: A pinch
6. Ginger: Small piece

Dry grind coarsely these three in a grinder. Keep aside.

7. Onion Chopped: 1/4th of a cup
8. Mustard seeds: A pinch
9. Red Chilli: 2-3 for garnishing
10. Curry leaves: 5-6
11. Oil: 2 Tablespoons
12. Chilly powder

Preparation

1. Heat the oil in a pan.
2. Once oil is hot add the mustard and let it splutter
3. Add the Red Chilly and the curry leaves and saute for 30 Seconds
4 Add Chopped Onion and and chilly powder (you can also use pepper powder) Saute till Onion turns Golden brown
5. Add the boiled Banana and the Coconut mixture
6. Cook in medium flame for about 10 minutes
7. Banana Thoran is ready to eat !!

23 October 2013

The good, the bad and the ugly: 23-Oct-2013

The Good: Does money grow on trees?
While growing up in hard times of the 70s, my father had a stock rhetorical question every time I asked him of money to buy something.
"Does money grow on trees?"
There was no concept of pocket money and stuff those days. Every expense has to be approved by my father and he was, to put it mildly, stingy.
So I grew up thinking that money doesn't grow on trees. That is, till I saw this news item.
Australian Scientists find Gold in the leaves of Eucaliptus Trees
This incident happened in the jungles of Kalgoorlie (Remember the Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, from your 9th grade Geography classes? They were the mineral rich region of Australia). Scientist investigating the Eucalyptus trees found traces of gold in the eucalyptus leaves. They attributed it to the fact that the Eucalyptus roots have gone about 30 meters deep inside the earth in search of water and have sucked up the gold which was lying underground. The gold has been sucked up by the roots and since gold is harmful to the plant, the ejection process has moved the same to the leaves which when falls will eject the gold along with it.
The process of identifying mineral deposits by analysing the trees and plants is called 'Biogeochemical Sampling'.
I am sure my father will change his views after this.
Fascinating. Read on for more...
USA is a peculiar country. This is the only developed country where people are free to carry guns wherever, whenever. The other countries with similar freedom are all in the 'Underdeveloped' group - those in Indian Subcontinent or in some African countries.
And even those countries have laws that ban carrying weapons of destruction. 
Many of the possessors of guns are children or young adults. There has been series of gun violence incidents in the US, but the government does not (is not able to) do anything. People are proud of their guns, of flaunting it, very happy with the power that a gun provides to them...
Every few days, we here cases of gun violence. Many of them are in the schools. Kids bring the guns, sometimes as a prestige issue or sometimes because of their psychological issues. While people try to provide a number of intellectual arguments in favor or against gun violence, the simple fact is ignored by many. More the availability of Guns, the more the chances of Gun Violence.
This has become such tragic situation that a gun violence incident has become just another statistic. The shooting at a Nevada middle school has to be seen in this perspective. A boy brings a gun to the school. He is supposedly bullied by some kids and he takes a gun and shoots one of the kids in the shoulder. The math teacher in a school, a decorated US Marine, who had done duties in Afghanistan, intervenes. He asks the kid to hand over the gun. The kid shoots the teacher fatally in the chest, shoots another child in the abdomen and finally shoots himself in the head and kills himself.
The sane response to this incident should be to analyse the conditions under which the gun reached the hands of the youngster and make legal intervention to ensure that such situations are stopped from recurring. But that is in any country other than USA.
In USA the analysis will focus on why the teacher did not have guns. The Pro-gun lobby will come up with arguments that 'the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun'. The argument will be that had the teacher had gun with him, he could have probably killed the kid.
As if it is so easy..
If he had killed the kid, the teacher would not have been able to sleep peacefully at night. Ever.
The 'bad guys' are becoming younger and younger.
The whole thing makes very very sad reading. Hope good sense prevails in US.

The Ugly: Teenage girl raped and then set afire.
A young girl near Lucknow in UP, who went out to toilet at night time was raped by three local boys. When the girl threatened to inform elders, they poured Kerosene on her and set her on fire. She died in the hospital.
Terrible...
This story is sad at three levels. In the first level, it is saddening that many people in India still do not have access to basic sanitation and have to use open spaces for their basic hygienic purposes. In the second level she was raped and in the final level, she was set on fire and died.
There are somethings in India, that should go away on a yesterday basis.
One is corruption
Two is rape
Rape is easy to handle. Catch them quickly and give the rapists exemplary punishment. The punishment should be severe enough to warn potential rapists and swift enough to link the crime to the punishment.
The most important long term solution is education and employment opportunities for the youth of the country.
In the meantime catch these three rapists and castrate them as a first step...

30 Days 30 Veggies: Day 6: Chenai Mezhukkupuratti (Yam Fry - Kerala Style)

You can check up My Cook Book for other Single Vegetable Recipes here.

Have you ever had this experience?

You plan to cook some thing. In your mind you have a very clear picture of how your preparation will look and feel once finished. You dream of eating the food, chewing each morsel, enjoying the taste, the smell, the texture,  its feel in your mouth.

You have a clear idea of what you want and how to get there. You saw the video in YouTube where a  was grandma cooking this stuff. It was so easy.

Of course, you can do it.

But.....

As they say, the devil is in the details.

This was my experience as I prepared the Yam Fry. I am sorry that it is a tongue twister of a name for a simple yam preparation. But that is how most of the words are in Malayalam, the language of Kerala.

I had this idea of a Yam Fry where every Yam Cube is separate but integrated from the rest of the preparation. My dream cube will be soft but tender, but not so soft as to blend with the others. It will be crisp. (You wonder how a vegetable can be crisp and soft and tender, you have not seen my mom prepare stuff). Each morsel will tell its own story as it melts in my mouth, how it was a recalcitrant seed, till the farmer caught it and to punish it, sowed it on the earth and added fertilizer and stuff, and how as it became grown up, how it was ashamed of some of the stuff it did as a kid...

Don't look at me like that. All of us have...

But the reality was far from my ideal.

You can read here the recipe that I followed.

This recipe calls for grinding onion and garlic in a mortar and pestle. This was the first time that I was using this and I found it very interesting. Of course, in my M&P, the mix did not grind at all. Like some couple who live together separately, the onion and garlic kind of stayed separate, maintaining their individuality and essence as it were, despite my best attempt at playing a marriage Councillor !!!

One lesson that I learned, though. If the recipe says add two spoons of hot water, there is a reason. You cannot not follow the recipe and add 10 spoons of water and expect that the cooked food will live up to your imagination !. 

At the end of the cooking, the yam cubes were to stay separate, each coated with bit of the 'Masala' and each partially crisp. Mark this, unlike the Onion and Garlic above, the yam cubes were supposed to stay SEPARATE. Is this what I got?

Of course not. Due to the excess amount of water, the Yam cubes lost their individuality. They decided that staying as a cube was not their destiny and that they had to let go of their individuality and become part of the whole. Totally, completely and without reservations.

And that is what I got. Instead of popping individual yam pieces into my mouth, I sort of ended up drinking the whole Yam preparation. Instead of melting in my mouth, the mix decided to help me reduce my effort by melting in the pan itself.

So considerate of you Mr.Yam fry / Mezhukkupuratty / Masala gravy....whatever

One thing I have to say, though. The aroma of the food was divine. 

Ingredients:

1. Yam cubes: Two cups
2. Onion:  1/4th
3. Garlic: 4 Cloves
4. Ginger: 1/2 teaspoon grated
5 Mustard: 1/2 teaspoon
6. Haldi (Turemeric) Powder, Jeera (Cumin) Powder (you should use Fennel Powder, I did not have any), Red Chilly Powder and Black Pepper: A pinch of each
7. Salt to taste
8. Oil: Two spoons
9. Curry Leaves: 5-6

Preparation

1. Semi-Boil the yam in a pressure pan without the weight for about 10 minutes (after the steam starts coming). Once done keep aside
2. Grind Onion, Garlic and Ginger in a Mortar and Pestle
3. Heat a frying pan, add mustard till it crackles, and then add curry leaves
4. Add the ground onion, garlic, ginger mix
5. Fry till the mix turns golden brown
6. Add the powders and cook for two minutes till the masala smell changes
7. Add two spoonfuls of water and mix thoroughly
8. Add yam and salt and mix thoroughly so that each yam piece is coated with the masala
9. Cook for about 5 minutes in medium flame.
10. Your Yam Mezhukkupuratty is ready.

PS: 'Mezhukkupuratty' in Malayalam means 'Covered with Oil'

22 October 2013

The good, the bad and the ugly: 22-Oct-2013

The Good: A Billionaire's attempt to teach economic theory
Mr.Ray Dalio, a 64 year old owner of a Hedge Fund Investment Firm and who is worth about USD 13 Billion, is taking up Youtube in a big way. His mission? Teach macro economics in a simple intuitive way with fun.
Perhaps he wants to give back to the society. Who knows?
Whatever be the motivation, it is good.
The 30 minutes video teaches economics through the use of Cartoons. I haven't yet seen the Video, hence not able to comment.

This article is about the pathetic living condition of the Athletes - Wrestlers, Hockey Players, Kabaddi Players- who live in Sports Authority of India's Kandivli Campus in Mumbai. This hostel has 27 rooms, each approximately 100  Sqft in size (10 feet X 10 feet, imagine the smallness !!), no bathrooms leaving the athletes to bath in Open air, dirty toilets, dilapidated buildings...
And it houses who?
It houses Sandeep Tulsi Yadav, who clinched a Bronze Medal in Greco-Roman at the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest a month ago. It houses Narsingh Yadav, Mumbai's only Olympian in London 2012 and a gold medal winner in 2010 Commonwealth Games...
It houses world beating wrestlers..
But they are not able to beat India's lousy sports administration. They are not able to beat India's famous red tape, callousness and 'Chalta Hai' attitude.
They blame the previous director who spent about 12 years without doing anything. Hopes are pinned on the new director, Mr. Sarhadi to do something.
Can he?....
Read more...

The Bad: Onion Prices touch Rs.100 per KG...Need I say more?
The government plans to ban exports. Better late than never...
Are exports the problem? Or is the problem hoarding? Or is it middle men? Where is the problem.?
One thing is certain. UPA is bound to lose the coming elections to the five states if Onion prices continue up...

It is the same thing, again and again and again. Predictable. The same script. Working woman, alone (or with friend), day or night, taking a taxi, getting raped...
Bright side is that police arrested the culprits in this case. 
It is time that we needed a zero tolerance policy towards rape...

21 October 2013

The good, the bad and the ugly: 21-Oct-2013

Today's Good, Bad and Ugly focuses on the foreign press.

This article is written by Ms.Lavanya Sankaran for The New York Times. In a refreshing change from the typical portrait of an Indian Man seen in the press, Ms.Sankaran paints the picture of the real Indian Man, the silent majority, who is decent, funny, interested in learning, have different interests, takes care of their parents...
Ms.Sankaran mentions that these people do not get the due credit for their behaviour. As she points out, there are a number of successful women in India, after all, very few countries have had Prime Ministers and Presidents who are women, the strong support that these women receive from their husbands is rarely mentioned anywhere. The common refrain from an Indian Man is not 'I Love You', but it is 'Main Hoon Na', which means 'I am there for you'. 
Ms.Sankaran says that while Indian men take all the hits for the negative stereotypes about them in the local and international press, they hardly get any plaudits for the amazing support that they provide to their families, for their self-deprecating wit and their curiosity for learning...
Ms.Sankaran also makes an important point. The above qualities, responsibility, taking care of the family, supporting their spouses to success...is inherent in the Indian men. However, the migration of the villager to the cities and the cultural and economic stress that is the result has made some men rapists and anti-socials. Interesting...
Read more..

The Good: The gritty warrior...
This is an inspirational story in many levels. In the first level, it talks about how a poor person achieved the impossible. In the next level, it turns out that the person is a girl from a remote village in Gujarat. And in the final level, she belongs to a family of three sisters...
When Punam Patel was born as the second of the three daughters to Babubhai Patel, the villagers in the Kangvi village of Gujarat sympathized with him. He may have to sell off his cows to marry her off, they decided.
But Babubhai had other ideas. The family struggled to educate the three daughters. The daughters, especially Punam worked in the mornings in the fathers farm, before going for her studies. All that efforts paid off.
Today, Punam Patel is a certified Homeopath, having completed her BHMS(Bachelor in Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery) from Anand.
For the other youngsters in the Village, Punam's success has given new avenues to look forward to and new dreams to dream. The elders in the Village will no doubt realize that a daughter is not a liability any more and that education will pay off in the end.
In my story of Scarcity Induced Behaviour, I had mentioned that the people who are worth the most respect are those who come from scarce environments and who end up doing well in life. These people not only have to battle the scarcity, but also to alter their thinking process from 'Fatalistic' to 'Optimistic'. It is a big deal.
Finally, one has to read this story in conjunction with my 'BAD' story of the day, of the Village elders in the Khap panchayats of Haryana and how they systematically keep their women down.
What a contrast !!!

This article by Ms.Ellen Berry for The New York Times, focuses on the Bad Men of India, the elders of the Khap Panchayats of Haryana. As we know, the Khap Panchayats are famous for their Honour Killings. As per their tradition, it is a sin for a boy and girl in the same Village to fall in love and marry each other. Also, a girl talking to a boy is frowned upon, a girl walking around without covering her head must be a slut...
The answer? Kill them...
This antediluvian attitude of the elders has resulted in a generational clash. The young people, the educated ones, want freedom. Freedom wear what they want, the freedom to speak their mind, the freedom to speak to whom they want to speak to...
Even having a mobile phone for a woman is a taboo in these villages.
The panchayats put a lot of pressure on the families of children who disobey the rigorous rules set forth by them. The families are always in the fear of being Ostracized. Or for being the butt of ridicule for having fathered children who bring dishonor to the family and the village.
To escape from this brutality, many of them run away from the villages to the cities. To study, to work...they come to embrace the anonymity of the cities, both boys and girls. They stealthily buy their jeans and their mobile phones. They are still scared of being watched.
Ms.Berry, paints a fascinating picture of the life these young people lead. She profiles a Khap Panchayat elder, Om Prakash Dhankar, who is infuriatingly unapologetic about his barbaric views. He spouts the usual antiquated views about the role of Khap, of the rules of family behaviour, of the expected behaviour from the children, of the harm a mobile phone can do in the hands of a girl...
The views would have been funny if they were not so horrific.
For me the most chilling part of the whole article is the last sentence. "As long as the girl lives within moral codes, she can have as much freedom as she wants," he said. "If they are going after love affairs or extra freedom, then they are killed." 
So matter of fact. As if killing a person was just another incident in the day.
Read more...

The Ugly: Sunita Narain Injured
This is a lady whom I respect a lot for her views. It seems that she was critically injured when a speeding car hit her cycle as she was cycling at about 6.30 AM.
Looks like she is out of danger. Thank god...
The car driver sped away after hitting her. Hope the driver will be caught soon.
Read more...

20 October 2013

The good, the bad and the ugly: 20-Oct-2013

I was busy the entire day, so got around to updating this blog only now.

The Good: Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank ranked 4th in the Forbes Global List of Women Business Leaders.
This is great news for all the women leaders in India. While Ms.Kochhar is ranked 4th, the surprise Indian entrant is Ms.Chitra Ramakrishna, who is the head of National Stock Exchange, who is ranked 17th. Other Indians in the list are Ms.Shikha Sarma of Axis Bank and Ms.Naina Lal Kidwai of Ficci.
Good work ladies...Keep going.

This is the story of the family of the girl, S.Alagu, who have topped the MSc course from MS University, Tirunelveli with an astounding 4 Gold Medal, a feat none has achieved before...
She comes from an illustrious family of high achievers, father, mother, sister...all of them are / were toppers in their respective fields.
Excellence runs in families...
Congratulations, Ms.Alagu, keep up the good work...

This is the story of Apurva Gilche, who works as a pilot with Indigo Airlines. The story of her transformation from a Cabin Crew of Indigo to Cockpit as a Commercial Pilot makes for fascinating read.
From childhood, she dreamt of becoming a pilot. She did not allow small hiccups like lack of funds stop her.
I regularly fly Indigo. I can see that the airline is also very proud of her. As they should be.
Way to go lady...

Today seems to be Ladies Day Out...

This straight out of the Hindi Movie 'Darr', where Shahrukh is stalking Juhi Chawla. This guy has been stalking this girl and was warned by the Police in this connection. He laid low for two months, again stalked her, allegedly forced her to drink acid and try to push her into sea. Fortunately the passersby heard her screams and saved her.
The stalker has been arrested...
Strange are the ways of the human mind.

19 October 2013

My first ever blog post

This was my first ever blog post, posted on 12 December, 2005.

It is so uncanny, how this post is relevant today, even more so. PC is still the FM, food price inflation is still high, UPA is now II.

Read on....

BTW, it has been 8 years since I started blogging. I think it is 'mind blogging' (Mind boggling)

The good, the bad and the ugly: 19-Oct-2013

There are a few 'Goods' today....

The Good: Mumbai gets the tallest Air Traffic Controller (ATC) says the NDTV. At 84 meters, this is the tallest ATC in India and is located at Chhatrapati Sivaji International Airport (CSIA). This will replace the current 64 meter high ATC at the airport. With this the landing capacity at airport will increase from current 30 aircraft / hour to 46 aircraft / hour...

This is a proud moment for us. With GVK having taken over the CSIA, the Airport has been attaining laurels after laurels. In 2011-12, this airport was identified as the third best airport in the world (Carrying 30-40 Million Passengers) behind Incheon Airport at Seoul and our own Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), New Delhi. This is as per the independent survey conducted by Airports Council International (ACI).

Back in 2002, I remember writing about the pathetic states of airports in India after my first ever International Trip to Pudong in China. On the way, I had spent some time at Changi Airport in Singapore. After the experience at Changi (and even Pudong, it was a new airport at that time), landing at Bangalore was a big let down. The airport was filled with seedy looking customs officials, with rule books in their hands, looking lecherously at each passenger to see who is the most pliable to extortion.

It is exhilarating that we have come a long, long way from those pathetic times in the last 10 years. Due to privatization, our Airports are more neater and cleaner, more grand looking, the staff is more courteous and efficient (even Air India Staff !!), the services are of international standards, the cuisine multi-faceted...

These are great times to be an airline passenger in India...

The Good: Sensex up by about 400 points. It is a three year high for Indian Markets

The world markets are cheering the end of shutdown and averting of the Debt Crisis in the USA. The average american has no idea of the impact of their actions across the world. US being the leader of the world has a special responsibility. They have to live up to that. Else world will suffer.

The Good: This CPI(M) leader sleeps on a bed of cash

He is a Communist Party Leader in the state of Tripura. He has made money doing honest business. His dream was to sleep on a bed of cash. He withdrew Rs.20 Lakhs in cash and made a bed of all that cash.

This would have been hilarious, if it were not so surreal. I like his guts, though. Very few communist party leaders will confess to being rich from doing business. Bourgeois and all that stuff...

This guy will become an inspiration to many more young people who have been taught by communists that doing business and becoming rich are evil

The Bad: The Witchhunt of Ashok Khemka

Haryana Government is on a witchhunt against one of its own IAS Officers, Ashok Khemka, for 'Causing Loss to the Public'. The Government has charged Mr.Khemka 'of failing to meet the targets that were set for the sale of seeds while he was Managing Director of the state-run Haryana Seeds Development Corporation.'

It would have been hilarious if it was not sad. When was the last time you heard Government of Sacking a bureaucrat for 'Failing to meet targets'. They do it (fail to meet targets) almost everyday!!. The charge is that Government is penalizing Mr.Khemka for cancelling a land deal between Mr.Robert Vadra and the DLF group. 

Will these hurt or help Congress in the elections? I think that this will hurt them, especially if it lingers on. These instances will keep 'Corruption' as top of the mind agenda for people. That can only hurt UPA in the elections

The Ugly...

This still happens in India....It is sickening.