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Showing posts from 2008

Poona's winter musings

While Poona may be one of the fastest upcoming cities in Maharashtra, presumably also in India, there is still the old world charm to it. A sort of fusion between the British era and Marathi culture and heritage. There are a few things I have to do whenever I am in Poona. Take a walk on the M.G.Road and East Street, visit the J.J.Agiary -and if time permits, like it did this time, visit the other two Agiaries (Nanapeth Agiary, pictured below, and Kombra, I hope I have spelt it out correctly), visit Bund Garden road, watch a move at Inox and buy Shrwesberry biscuits from Kayani Bakery. (pictured: M.G.Road)
Speaking of Kayani Bakery, I have yet to see a more efficient bunch of staff at any other over-crowded shops, than the one at Kayani. How they manage to regain their composure in the middle of total and complete chaos (customers scramble and almost fight it out to reach the counter to ensure they get what they came looking for before the items are sold out), get all the orders right t…

A rebuttal to Gnani Sankaran's article

Following the Bombay terror attack, last week I received, twice, an email that contained an article titled 'Hotel Taj: Icon of Whose India?' written by some Gnani Sankaran, 'a Tamil writer'. I have issues with that article and find it to be inappropriate and very mis-timed. I think authors should use their positions more carefuly and not try and divide our society more than that it already is. Following is a copy of this article and after that my rebuttal. 
Hotel Taj : icon of whose India ?

Gnani Sankaran- Tamil writer, Chennai.

Watching at least four English news channels surfing from one another during the last 60 hours of terror strike made me feel a terror of another kind. The terror of assaulting one's mind and sensitivity with cameras, sound bites and non-stop blabbers. All these channels have been trying to manufacture my consent for a big lie called - Hotel Taj the icon of India.

Whose India, Whose Icon ? 

It is a matter of great shame that these channels simply…

Do candlelight vigils work?

In light of the recent Bombay terror attack, several citizens and groups have come together in an unprecedented way to show support and solidarity to the victims of this tragic incident, as well as pull up the authorities for severely letting down the citizenry, by holding candle-light vigils, 1/2/3 minute silences, etc. The biggest such meeting was held at the Gateway of India on Sunday, November 30, two days after the deadly siege ended that killed around 200 people and injured around 1,000. But do these candle-light vigils, public show of solidarity/outcry help? 
Yesterday, I was standing at the Nariman Point bus-stop to catch a bus to go home around 19.45 hrs. The roads were quite empty and office goers were waiting to catch the next bus home, on my opposite side where the road goes to VT station, there was a long queue waiting for their BEST buses. Suddenly a large group of citizens, shouting slogans like "Bharat Maata Ki Jai", armed with a loudspeaker playing patriotic …

Shatabdi Express In Ruins

I just returned back, after a 2-day pilgrimage trip to Udwada, by the Ahmadabad-Bombay Shatabdi Express. I boarded the train from Vapi. This is a premier and completely air-conditioned train; seats in this train are more costly than similar seats in other trains because Shatabdi gives you extra services like meals and bottled water, just like a full-fledged airline. As against a regular chair-car ticket from Vapi to Bombay Central would cost Rs 251, a Shatabdi train ticket costs Rs 375.  However, apart from the speed and convenient timings, the Ahmadabad Shatabdi is junk and a crappy train. The entire train looks like junk-yard material from the moment you set foot inside.

Poor maintenance: Compartments are very dirty and not well-maintained. My neighbour's seat was broken and I am almost sure that by the time he would got off at Borivali, he would have had a bad back. Other seats were hardly better, the one in front of me was perpetually in a pushed-back motion and was almost fall…

Heads roll or cosmetic measures?

So heads have started to roll. Shivraj Patil's resignation was overdue, but it was nice to see our Maharashtra's incompetent due of Deshmukh and RR Patil also leave. If after the recent anti-north Indian violence,  Deshmukh and RR Patil hardly did anything to arrest the violence and the goons and bring them to book properly and instead kept on harping "the-law-will-take-its-own-course" cliche, this should be a lesson to them. This is how heads should roll and action needs to be taken or infact can be taken if there's a will, if you don't look after your people well. In any case, they have hardly done anything for Maharashtra, they were inefficient and inadequate, could not control domestic violence leave aside professionally and well-orchestrated terrorism from across international borders, it was a miracle that they survived in their seats for so long.
And as if all the lows that Deshmukh had sunk to uptill now were not enough, he also took along his actor-so…

After-thoughts of the Bombay terror attack

Finally, with God's grace and thanks to our brave soldiers and armymen/NSG, the battle with the terrorists is over and the commandos have taken complete control of the Taj hotel - the last bastion that the coward terrorists were holding fort. 
Now, a detailed recee and analysis would begin and details behind their operation and break-in would emerge. Some of my after-thoughts are as follows: 
Kudos and my salute to our brave officers, armymen and NSG officials for fighting and later overpowering the terrorists. Despite being poorly paid as compared to government employees and private sector yuppies, these people put our lives before their lives and bravely fought from the front. They have done a professional job. May the souls of the departed brave ones rest in peace and God give their loved ones the strength to cope with the loss. Their sacrifice will always be remembered. And may the injured soldiers get well soon. 
Kudos to also the brave hotel staff of the Taj and Oberoi for putt…

Will Indian Politicans Wake Up?

As the war on Bombay completes 24 hours right now (it's around 21.15 hrs right now as I write this), tension is mounting with every passing minute as numerous TV channels are claiming that the encounter and fierce engagement between the terrorists and the National Security Guards (NSG) heats up and hopefully nears to an end. The final assault, it seems, is moments away, as per the intense media coverage. This is not a terrorist attack. This is war. And as usual, it is the common man who is caught in the middle of it. Whether it is because of petty politicians that destroy and disrupt normal life by riots, violence and unnecessary politically-motivated bandhs or because of terrorist attacks, the common man is suffering once again. What are our politicians doing?  They talk. They condemn the acts. Oppositions blame the present governments and demand resignations while governments tells us that the law will take its own course. What else? They talk about India Shining. They talk abou…

Bombay under attack: hauled up at Sterling cinema

The on-going terrorist attack and hostage crisis that is still unravelling as I write this blog (9.00 am, 27-Nov-08) and began as early as about 20.30 hours on 26 Nov 08, are most unfortunate. From the targets that these terrorists have chosen, and the way they have sifted, sorted and picked out their hostage victims, it clearly seems that they were largely after foreign tourists. At any point in time, Coloba causeway (the area where Cafe Leopold is there and where the firing began) is full of foreign tourists, and so do hotels such as Taj and Oberoi. I had also heard that the Marriott was also attacked but I have no confirmed information. 
What baffles me is that how the terrorists managed to get inside Taj Hotel despite all the security there. Of late, the Taj had even stopped vehicles from entering its portico. Gun-trotting and imposing security guards and also sniffer dogs were deployed for round-the-clock security, in addition to screening passages and tools. Yet, the terrorists m…


After suffering their worst month ever, the Indian MF industry sees consolidation. Is this just a start? It came with a bang but went out in a whimper. Barely two years after setting up shop in India Lotus MF is acquired by Religare-Aegon mutual fund. Both MFs have signed the agreement and the deal now awaits the securities and exchange board of India’s (Sebi) clearance.
Desperate timesAfter suffering its worst month ever, Indian MFs saw massive erosion in their assets under management (AUM). Lotus MF was no different as it lost Rs 2,479 crore or 31 per cent of its corpus in October, down from Rs 7,937 crore a month ago. However, sources say, its sponsor Alexandra Fund Management - a subsidiary of Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, was keen to exit Lotus on account of the mayhem caused due to the global credit crisis and also the state of Lotus MF. Sabre Capital was the other partner in this joint venture. In reality, the MF has been jinxed right from its start. Even before it launched its f…

PR companies can be a nuisance

There was a time when dealing with public relation (PR) companies and their employees was a breeze. But these days, whenever a PR calls me, i shudder. With all due respect to a majority of them - and some of them with whom I am on good to very good terms - they have become a nuisance. As a journalist, I deal with several PR people every day. I am observing a disturbing trend. 
There are two things I hate about these PRs 
1) Spam emails: Turns out, SPAM emails are not just on erectile dysfunction, penile enlargement, improving sex quotient, taking a loan or taking charge of some wealth left behind for us by some Nigerian gentleman or lady. Even PRs send us spam emails these days. These PRs do not bother to check which journalist where tracks what. If they have a news item to be publicized, they just shamelessly send mass emailers to all, dry and sundry journalists across magazines, newspapers and TV news channels. Some of the spam PR emails - on topics that I do not deal with at all nor …

Sipping chai at Tea centre

Bombay is more known for its coffee culture. Although India is more known for its tea than coffee, its urban crowd is more hooked onto coffee. Thanks largely to coffee chains like Barista and Cafe Coffee Day that have sprung at every nook and corner of major cities across India. But I am not much of a coffee person. I cannot distinguish one coffee from another and coffee served at most of these coffee shops are full of lather that kills all the fun. I hate Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days, they're boring and done to death with, it's noisy with people yapping, loud television and all. Though people, especially the younger crowd are crazy about them and coffee. 
I like my cup of tea. A simple, yet extremely potent drink that revitalises my spirits and makes me look forward for the day at breakfast, that extends a warm welcome to me in office at about 11ish when I am about to start my work in full swing and finally wakes me up after a dull, but hard-worked afternoon. Which is why I w…

...of politics and local sentiment

Events in Mumbai in the month of October 2008 brought about a lot of unwanted attention to this megapolis city. The MNS political party went on a rampage and attacked life and property in protest of the arrest of its leader RT. He was arrested for inciting his party workers to attack examination centres and drive out North Indian candidates (essentially from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). RT has also strongly advocated that these north Indians get out of Mumbai as he feels they are snatching away jobs from locals, i.e. Maharashtrains or people who were born and brought up in Maharashtra and speak Marathi as their mother-tongue. But is there any rationale in what he is saying? And what about his methods?
Changing tracks When RT broke away from the Shiv Sena in late 2005, I had hope. Although Shiv Sena had its violent history of which RT was very much a part of, here was a young and dynamic man who was humbled in his earlier party despite holding much promise. I felt at that time that, after s…


Panic redemptions and tight money have resulted in liquid funds declaring losses for the first time in many years. But is there a way out?
If you think that liquid funds are absolutely safe and protect your capital at all times, then think again. On 8 October, three liquid plus funds, Mirae Asset Liquid Plus (MALP), DSP Merrill Lynch Liquid Plus and Templeton India Ultra Short Bond funds gave one-day negative returns. MALP was the worst hit as it lost 0.40 per cent that day. While a day’s loss may not sound catastrophic in any other funds, in the case of liquid funds it grabs headlines because many large investors and companies park their surplus cash in these funds for a day or a week or a fortnight. To make matters worse, some schemes limited redemptions. On 15 October, ABN Amro MF limited redemptions on few of its fixed maturity plans (FMP) to Rs one lakh per folio. What went wrong?Bad assets…After a series of media reports about the illiquidity of the underlying assets in which man…

Weak people continue to smoke

So after the government of India's ban of smoking in public places - and its just backing of the Supreme Court - it remains to been how successful this ban really is. As much in favour of this ban as I am, I must admit that it is an incomplete one. Sale of gutka, tobacco and pan masala is on and these packets are openly available at road side stalls. Atleast cigarettes do not deface the city like the way paan, tobacco, gutka and pan masala consumers deface the city with stains caused by spitting the remains. 
Meanwhile, the ban on smoking has little effect. In the absence of strong policing about this - policing here is most required rather than wasting time in such things like moral policing - smokers continue to puff away. My own office colleagues continue to smoke in building corridors as if nothing has changed. What's more shameful is that they make lame excuses that why couldn't the government ban prostitution rather than smoking or that they are smoking in between …