Saturday, March 28, 2009

For the politicians, Youth and YOU

Politics is a dirty place… and as a rule I stay miles away from it [ I believe that even reading about it might corrupt me :-) ]… but when politicians start (mis) using their power to play on the common man’s emotions and jeopardize the harmony of our country… I guess its time we – the youth of India, stand up, take notice and raise our voice!

The Nehru - Gandhi family treat the political arena as though its a family matter... but not even this can justify the nasty 'Hate speech' delivered by Varun Gandhi at Pilibhit recently. It is indeed strange that Mrs Maneka Gandhi, instead of apologizing, chose to hit out at the Congress for their Anti-Sikh Acts. And this blame game never stops -- Congress hits back with 'Godhra Riots', Ayodhya issue and Blah and Blah!!

I am ashamed that 'We' have elected such insensible 'kids' to represent us. I call them kids, because it is very kiddish of them to squabble over what happened in 1984, or 2002... and forget the present or even the future!! It is no wonder too, that they choose to fight only over religious issues... 'coz these would generate the maximum interest amongst the people and thus get them the maximum votes!

But what they forget is that this is not '47 or '84 or even '02. India has learnt its lessons --- the hard way. There is no place for religious fanatics in India now... no place for people who want to divide us. Pramod Muthalik being bombarded with ‘Pink Chaddis’ and then arrested and Shri Ram Sena being banned provides proof of this fact.

My family has suffered first hand due to communalism – both in ’47 and ’84. In 1947, my grandparents were forced to leave behind everything… their homeland (Rawalpindi) and flee – just because some people (Read Nehru and Jinnah) felt that India would be better off if Hindus and Muslims lived separately!! My grandparents consoled themselves by saying that they would be safer in ‘India’… or so they thought, till that fateful day in 1984 when thousands of Sikhs were massacred in their own country… Their only crime being that they were Sikhs!! That was a Black Day not only for the Sikhs but also for all of India… For Sikhs, it was 1947 revisited… the horrors and insecurities came rushing back. What made it worse, was that this time they were being treated as second citizens in their own country.

But… we have moved on. And so have scores of other people. What is important for us now, is the present and our future. What is important, is that there should not be another 1947 or ’84. What is important, is that no more innocent lives should be lost due to religious fanaticism. No more religious places should be demolished in the name of ‘God’. Its high time we all realise that God would never want to see his children fighting – and least of all over religion!!

The world would indeed be a better place if we all performed our duties to the best of our abilities – if the politicians focussed on governance and economic issues, rather than religious ones, if the police force made sure that criminals were punished and innocent people were protected. Let us pledge to work towards a peaceful and harmonious India, and ensure that India does not fall prey to communalism and remains Secular, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Nemesis of Maruti 800 ?

'Nano' is the new buzz word... I-phones and I-pods have taken a back seat... people have even stopped talking about politics and the impending elections!! Nano Mania has truly caught on and the Tatas seem to have hit a jackpot!! They have survived all odds including the tantrums of Mamata Di (Read Singur), shifting of the mother plant to Sanand and even the recession!!

It truly is a great step forward for the Indian auto industry... a revolutionary step, which may force all other car manufacturers to change the way they price their cars and rethink their strategy. However, the greatest threat by far is for the Maruti 800, which so far was the market leader in the small car segment. Over 2.5 million Maruti 800's have been sold since its launch in 1984 but the Nano may just end its dream run. Not only is the Tata Nano cheaper priced ( at Rs 1.3 for the base variant compared to Rs 1.8 lakh for the Maruti 800 ) , but it has a lot of other benefits over the 800 too. Most of us would have sat in a 800 some time in our life and would know how cramped its interiors are, but the Nano brings with it the promise of spacious interiors. The Tata Nano has an 8 percent smaller exterior size and a 23 percent larger interior space compared to an 800!! Now this has a another advantage -- that of finding parking space in todays jam-packed roads :-)

A few years earlier, a car buyer with a limited budget had almost no options except the Maruti 800... now he can choose. I've tried to draw up a comparison between the Nano and 800, based on the initial reviews coming in.


The first and the most important factor is of course the price without compromising on the quality. The on road price of a Nano is around Rs 1.3 lakh while a maruti 800 costs around 1.8 lakhs. They have acheived this amazing feat by sticking to just the basics ie: the base variant has has no radio, power windows or air conditioning albeit these are all available in the deluxe versions... the same is with maruti 800. The Deluxe version of Tata Nano costs around rs 1.72 lakhs while Maruti 800 offers the same at Rs 2.1 lakhs.

While still at the price factor, it is interesting to know about some of the methods used by the Tatas to cut costs:-

  • The Nano's boot does not open, instead the rear seats can be folded down to access the boot space.

  • It has a single windscreen wiper instead of the usual pair.

  • Some exterior parts of it are glued together, rather than welded.

  • It has no power steering, except in the Cx version.

  • It has 3 nuts on the wheels instead of the statutory 4 nuts.

By the looks of it, Maruti 800 would now have to change its pricing strategy to match up with that of Nano, else the evergreen 800 would soon lose its glory.


Here, I think the Nano beats the 800 hands down. The Nano has a snub-nosed look like the Zen Estillo Car and Matiz, which definitely looks more stylish than the outdated looks of an 800. Everywhere you look you see a 800, and its been that way for ages... plus Maruti hasn't changed the appearance of their car much... thus the modern, smooth looks of the Nano offers a refreshing change.


This is THE most important factor for some, the thing which makes a car a car!! The Nano comes with a 625 cc engine while the maruti 800 has a 796 cc engine… if you look at sheer capacity then the Maruti 800 seems a better choice. But, the ultimate measure of the actual performance of a car is its power to weight ratio. The highest power generated by a Nano is 33 BHP while that generated by Maruti 800 is 37 BHP. But due to the great difference in the weight of the two cars – a Nano weighs only 580 Kg compared to Maruti 800’s weight which is 660 Kg—their power to weight ratio works out to be nearly the same ( 0.057 for Tata Nano, and 0.056 for the Maruti). Thus, the feel of the Nano will be nearly the same as a Maruti!!

The Nano’s engine is, however, rear mounted and this comes with its own share of problems. According to experts, the Nano becomes very noisy at high speeds because noise insulation is not possible in a rear mounted engine. Also, as mentioned before, the rear is welded shut and cannot be opened, this means the engine bay which lies under the rear seats also can only be accessed from inside the car. This could be a little problematic.

Mileage and Fuel Efficiency

A Maruti 800 is known to give around 16.1 km/l while the Nano claims to give much more – around 20 km/l, this would lead to a 20% savings in fuel costs which is quite a considerable amount. Tata Nano managed to score around 24 km per litre during its ‘homologation’ tests with ARAI. This makes the Nano the most fuel efficient car in India. Also due to its lower power engine, the Nano’s engine consumes less petrol, and thus leads to greater fuel efficiency.

Some Miscellaneous points

Nano is a real Eco friendly car, which complies with Euro IV standards (while Maruti 800 meets up with only the Euro III norms). A lot of fear has been expressed over the fact that Nano would increase pollution significantly but a study done by a German newspaper indicated that Tata Nano has lower emissions compared to the average Volkswagen, and that developing countries shouldn't be denied the right to motorized mobility whereas industrialized countries should be looking to reduce their emissions and usage of cars.

Although the Nano may seem to be better than the Maruti 800 on almost all counts… but one must not forget that the 800 has proven its mettle as a safe, reliable, sturdy and a no nonsense dependable car. The Nano has a rear mounted engine, the safety of which has not yet been established.

My Verdict

At last the common man’s car has arrived – the Tatas have delivered their promise. A good all rounder at a cheap price. Nano is a great threat, not only for Maruti 800, but also to the two wheeler market and the second hand car market because now, at just Rs 1.3 lakhs, you can be the proud owner of a brand new car. No longer would one have to save for years in order to buy a car…
The Nano complies with all the emission standards and safety norms... in fact it surpasses them... it has a great advantage here that it already complies with Euro IV norms even though it comes into effect in India only in 2010. Thus, Nano is safe -- not only for the people driving it but also for the environment. So much safer than a scooty or a motorbike... so save a little more and buy a Nano!!

The future of safe and cheap travelling has arrived...

The Rating Agency CRISIL, has predicted that Nano's launch would expand the Indian car market by 65% and would push up car sales by 20%. This would be beneficial not only for the Tata's but also for India's economy, which seems to gone into a slump.

The biggest challenge ahead for the Tata's, is to maintain their price offering... but for now they have struck gold. Nearly everybody sees their dreams one step closer now and have a good reason to smile :-)

Auto drivers, Motor cycle drivers... all seem to be saving up for their very own Nano!! Ab Gaadi chalaana seekh lo India... Go get your licence today!

What about you? Would you buy a Nano? I certainly would :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In the memory of Frisky....

As far as I can remember, we have always had dogs in our house—and somehow one of them has always been black in color. Local kids used to point towards our house and say “Kalo kukur, kalo kukur”… which in Bengali means black dog! Having a dog around, made us feel safe… and also made us feel loved.

So far we have had 5 dogs – Taki I, Taki II, Taki III, (Yes, you guessed right-- We like giving our dogs unique names!!) Chotu and Frisky. Dogs normally reserve their loyalties for only one person – their master, but our Black and Tan Daschund, Frisky, was different. He was Everybody’s dog, and that is what made him unique. This is the story of a dog, who filled our house with love and happiness – and somehow though he is no more today, all that he stood for… still continues.

As a pup, he was no bigger than your palm.. now imagine this little mouse like looking thing running all over the house, with 6 people running behind him, scared that they might step on him and kill him!! That was his first day at home. He was a mischievous little imp, with boundless energy and thus he was christened ‘Frisky’. Over the next 13 years, he continued his funny ways but made sure that each day was filled with lots of smiles and happiness.

It was hilarious seeing him drink milk—his long ears inside the bowl, slowly you could see his black ears turning white-- and when he got too impatient licking the milk, he would put his paw in the bowl and spill all the milk.. somehow it gave him greater pleasure licking the milk off the floor or maybe he just loved seeing the exasperated looks on our faces!!

On his second day at home.. he decided it was time to venture out into the world and conquer it!! And so he barged into our neighbours house… barking his head off at their three year old Labrador (!)… and wait the best is yet to come… this teeny weeny daschund –with sheer courage and guts—scared the Lab outta his skin!! Once the two dogs had decided who was stronger, they became the best of friends. It was funny seeing a Labrador and a Daschund together – their difference in size didn’t seem to matter to them. Frisky went on to greater heights in life… befriending a Doberman and a Dalmatian!!

Frisky loved eating, and he hated wastage. His favourite as a pup was banana peels!! Thankfully he grew out of this liking and developed a more sophisticated taste-bud! Mangoes and Parshaad became his new favourite and also the bait used to give him any medicine when needed. No matter in which part of the house he was, if parshaad was being warmed… his nose would sound alarm bells and he would go ballistic. He could put Pavlov’s dog to shame with his salivation abilities!!

It was his love of eating that once got him terribly sick – so sick that we thought we would lose him. He loved eating ‘Ber’ which had fallen from the trees into our drain, and this was probably how he contracted the deadly ‘Parvo Virus’, when he was merely 6 months of age. All the Vets gave up on him… all except one. That one doctor seemed like Messiah to us – with his broad smile and reassuring voice and we knew that in his care, Frisky would be ok soon – and he was.

The above incident made us realise that we had come to love and adore Frisky in a span of just 6 months. That is Frisky for you – You could not help falling in love with him. One look at his soulful eyes could melt a hardened criminal – they were so full of love and brimming with expression!! But not everything about him was cute and nice… read on!!

One bright sunny day, Frisky decided we weren’t giving him enough food – so he went to the neighbour’s house in search of better tasting food. We didn’t know how much destruction a hungry dog could cause, till we saw it for ourselves… bread, eggs, biscuits strewn all over the place – the only good thing was that frisky seemed satisfied and happy after his meal although we couldn’t have a proper conversation with our neighbours for weeks without feeling embarrassed!!

And then there was the day that he drank 3 and half litres of milk!! Finding the milk vessel unguarded, which was by mistake left on a low lying table – Frisky had a field day. His small little tummy bloated up and we were so scared that it might burst… he couldn’t walk and slept for the whole day in the same place!! Although now we laugh at it... that day we were downright scared and also angry!!

But Frisky had a mind of his own… he always did exactly what he wanted to do… no matter what! When we got Frisky home… we decided that we would train him well and teach him all the commands. We bought books on dog training, read a lot BUT we failed and Frisky succeeded!! All he ever learnt was sit… he would give paw if threatened with a slap (or bribed with food!!) and if he was in an extremely good mood he would oblige us by responding to ‘Down’ too (Although I suspect that this was ‘coz he was to lazy to sit and was just too happy to lie down!!). Having failed miserably in teaching him the basics, we tried teaching him ‘Fetch’. But he was more interested in his version of ‘Fetch’ which did not include bringing the bone/ball back… instead he would sit down and chew at it happily!! Daschunds are generally stubborn by nature, and difficult to train… and that is what we would like to believe rather than accept the fact that we were pathetic trainers!!

Giving Frisky medicines was a nightmare for us. We devised many ways to camouflage the tablets… and thought we were clever but soon realised he was much cleverer than us. He would gobble up the rasgulla but spit out the tablet and then look at us as though mocking us and saying “Haha.. Better luck next time!!”.

Over the span of 13 years, we gave Frisky many names… Filly, Billy Boy (from the famous song Billy boy), Bluey, Mousey and Pitter Patter!! One may wonder how you can name your dog pitter patter, well this is how – Frisky had really long nails (and I mean REALLY long!)… so when he walked, his nails hit the floor and that sounded like ‘Pitter patter’ !! Simple, Isn’t it??
It was a real task cutting his nails… we had bought anaesthetic gel, doggie nail cutter and still we could never cut his nails… we were just so scared he would get hurt J
The only person who could cut his nails was my sister, who used to come home once in 2 years… and every time she came home from the US, the first thing we would tell her was “Please cut Frisky’s nails before leaving!!”

Like I said before, frisky was everybody’s dog… he took food only from mom, went for a walk only with my uncle, slept only with me, got his nails cut only by my sister… but he gave love to everyone. My dad used to hate dogs, but even he had to change his ways when frisky sat before him waiting to be petted.

Frisky was always there, to listen, to talk and to just be there. No body felt alone as long as Frisky was around. A day before my Grandmother died, frisky cried and cried – without any reason, as though signalling to the heavens to open their gates to let her in. He too understood the grief and shared it with us… as he always did.

But old age was catching up with him and slowly we all realised that one day we would have to bid this bundle of joy farewell. Frisky breathed his last on 6th march 2009, but his story doesn’t end here!!

In a city like Kolkata, where every third house has a dog, it is surprising that there is no proper place where a dog can be laid to rest with dignity. There is however, one organisation name ‘Karuna Kunj’ which has set up a shelter for dogs and cats some 30 kms aways from kolkata and these people also provide a burial ground for your loving pet (And God Bless them for this). Anyone who has ever lost a pet, would realise the importance of a proper resting place for their pet. Frisky too was laid to rest here, and the receipt that they give for their services is as follows… it confirmed my belief that Frisky would live forever J

My dearest Master,

I am lucky to have had a Master who loved me enough to see that I was laid to rest with dignity. The word "interweb" has become fashionable these days. There is, however, a Cosmic Interweb of Souls which cuts across the barriers of this world, and this is what brought me into your home & heart ; and this is what made you bring me to Karuna Kunj....

I lived to bring you joy, to get your love and give you all I had, in my own funny way. Now, I am gone and you live on. For the love I bore you, and for the love you have for me and for the interweb which binds all beings, I am making this parting plea

"Live for those who love you,
For those that think you true,
For the heaven that is above you,
And the hope that you have in view,
For the cause that needs resistance,
For the future in the distance,
And the good that you can do.

Your loving pet

Friday, March 6, 2009

-=-=-Inn0 Cent$ Lost-=-=-

As hostelites we are always on the look out for a restaurant where we can get junk food.. so imagine our delight when we found one where there was a jumbo combo offer with all the possible sins-- Burger with extra cheese, french fries and the all important Coke!!

While we where enjoying our meal two 3 year olds were running all around the cafe driving their parents mad. It was nice to see their endless energy and cherubic smiles. The cafe had a cake shop which had heavenly looking chocolate and pineapple pastries. The two kids soon had their noses stuck on the glass pane of the cake counter pestering their parents to buy some. Then I happened to hear something that seemed very jarring to my ears.. One of them came to her dad, held out her hand and said "Papa paise de do"!! I was shocked and very very sad. Sad that our consumerist society has become so blind that not even innocent children have been spared.

I thought of my childhood... when I was three. I did not even know what money was, forget asking for it. When I was five or so I started realizing that money was something important but also something that was my parents department. I knew that Lollipops, Five Stars, Ice creams and Barbie Dolls required money but I also knew that if i wanted one of the above, I wasn't supposed to ask for money. Life was so simple... you want a lollipop, you ask for a lollipop, and you would get a lollipop!! Not like now when we worry about our career, budget our cash flow, put chota refil in cell phone just to keep it going, wait to withdraw money from ATM till 10th so that we get some interest (which is negligible I may add!!).... our life now revolves around money... knowingly or unknowingly.

I feel so grateful to have had parents like mine... who made sure I had a "childhood"-- where my biggest worries were which flavour of ice cream to choose, making sure that my sister was not making a fool of me by giving me less chocolate and coke and devising new ways of getting rid of that ominous glass of milk.

So while my friends were busy arguing about who had the highest pocket money... I was rejoicing about the fact that I was given the freedom to be a child. I hope that the child who inspired this post, someday achieves the freedom and peace of mind that a child truly deserves.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

NGO partnership in Indian Education Scene!!

India is the home of NGO’s which spawn due to the supply side response. We have people who feel strongly about something and are moved to do something for the community or the nation. This NGO proliferation was due to govt failure but this may be a perception considering the planning commission reports that propose to spend on public good. In fact why can’t governments work as efficiently as NGO’s: maybe because it’s a monopoly and somewhat indestructible. Attempts are being made in various places to achieve the inclusion of all children into the ambit of educational fold.

The myth of private school children faring better than public school children was challenged by Wilima Wadhwa in her study of such differences. It is summarized in Pratham’s latest report on the state of education- ASER2008. According to her, household characteristics- income, literacy (especially of the mother), a pucca house, electricity, telephone- explains most of the variation. Among all differentiating variables the presence of a secondary school in the village goes a long way in determining the performance of children in the primary schools. It may be because of the chances to get promoted to a secondary level of education in the village itself, which pushes the children and their parents to continue their faith in the education system. Among all else, ambition also matters when we look at the issue of inclusion of all the children into the education system’s fold. This ambition and the individual vision for each child have to be nurtured by this very education system and from a real young age.

We have people who feel strongly about something and are moved to do something for the community or the nation. This NGO proliferation was due to govt failure but this may be a perception considering the planning commission reports that propose to spend on public good. In fact why can’t governments work as efficiently as NGO’s: maybe because it’s a monopoly and somewhat indestructible.

One such initiative worth recounting is of Loreto School- Sealdah, where nearly 3500 children from 12 schools, are taught by the students in a unique programme christened Shikshajyoti, run on the ‘each-one-teach-one’ principle. The rewards are immeasurable for both the teacher and the taught, through its imaginative and interactive teaching methods involving storytelling and role-playing. Everybody feels equal in the school precincts and the school projects are not about charity or the proverbial rich giving to the poor. The whole project is not only to help educate the marginalized children through effective use of school’s resources, but also to inculcate a sense of values in the students of the school. The students of this school imbibe a set of values that no other school can impart.

Till 1979, when Sister Cyril Mooney took over as principal, Loreto was like any other convent school, with its students drawn from affluent middle class homes. But for Sister Cyril, who received a Padmashri Award last year, it wasn’t enough to be just a ‘good’ school. Today nearly half of the 1,400 odd students of the Loreto School pay no fees at all- because they just can’t afford it. The natural warmth and camaraderie among the students make it impossible to tell which of Loreto students come from poor families. The school has triumphantly redefined education as it not only imparts bookish knowledge to children but is actively involved in construction of old age homes, micro credit facilities for the mothers of Rainbow school pupils, runs free medical camps and a kitchen feeding 700 children daily. Today Loreto Sealdah’s students and their parents, its teachers and alumni, are all proud stake-holders in Sister Cyril’s vision- whose able leadership and willingness to work brought about a sea change in the surroundings.

The other success story is worth narrating is one of Naandi kitchens in Andhra Pradesh which provide round, square and oval meals as part of the mid-day meal scheme to pull in school children. Government schemes evoke so much cynicism that when you come across one that functions with clockwork precision, you feel a sense of disbelief. But the public-private partnership between the NGO, Naandi foundation and the Andhra Pradesh government is an invitation to suspend scepticism. The scheme is undoubtedly one of the best implemented mid-day meal programmes in the country. Each day some 150,000 children, in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, eat atleast one healthy, tasty and hygienically prepared meal every school day.

It is amazing to see what one wholesome meal a day can do to a child’s life. Enrolment in state run schools in the twin cities has gone up by 25 to 30 percent since the mid-day meal scheme began. Surprisingly, a large number of the newly enrolled are girls. There is 10 to 20 percent improvement in children’s health and malnutrition levels, too, have fallen similarly. Hearteningly, attendance rates in the schools, where absenteeism has been rampant, have gone up by 10 to 20 percent.

The one’s who feel the urge to fulfil their dream of lighting the lamp of knowledge in each child, go ahead without looking for any governmental support or await the passage of right compulsory education bill in the parliament. They believe in doing something about the condition of the underprivileged on their own rather than cursing the Government policies.