Thursday, June 18, 2009

Expert suggestions

"Being an IBM product, software XYZ is very sturdy...
Being an IBM product, software XYX is better than software ZZZ...."

The comments were made in a training session, where the trainer was passing on the wisdom. The trainer has never worked deep enough to make these comments. In fact she doesnt know any coding. And her overall experience in both products - read- restarting the server etc - is six months. She's even against writing a simple automation script to bring a web server back in case it goes down somehow, saying that it is too complicated to automate. That, when we are thinking on using some Machine Learning stuff to automate software maintenance! In fact product XYZ is the crappiest product IBM made, its almost in Beta. So complicated, built on Java/Eclipse and heavy (like most IBM softwares) and buggy and without any documentation. And XYX is way worse than ZZZ. Bah!!

Someone else: AVG (free version!) is way better than Norton(corporate, paid). I took the advice and installed AVG, and it was almost waste. I mean, so heavy, not so well designed, catching non-viruses, not catching viruses, making system slow etc. Now, yesterday another person making the same suggestion!!

I took Mechanical Engg. for B. Tech on such "expert advice" and fully regretted it later. The suggestion was - IT Boom is bust, IT has no future, computer engineers are starving these days, mechanical is the boom area now, etc. My ass.

So, be wary of the "expert comments" and suggestions you receive, when you ask for the best airline, best laptop, best software, where to join for engineering, which subject to take, will CFL give the same amt of light as much as tubelight (personal experience!) etc. No harm in listening, but one must realize that these may not "expert" at all!! Many of them are silly personal biases with no other basis whatsover.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bored again, TGIF

I am so bored.
I am stale.
Blood flow almost down to sleep levels.
I want to yell out.
Cry out loud.
Another "TGIF"
Friends going for trip, but me not going; not feeling like
Another weekend.
I am lacking energy already.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Friend, Sancho

I read famous blogger Amit Varma's debut novel: My Friend, Sancho. It was a really entertaining read. I loved Abir Ganguly - his complexities, his thoughts, and above all: his absurd jokes and dreams. I could identify a lot with him.

The novel is not intended as a literary book, and the author wants it to get into the middle spectrum between Five point someone (FPS) and Amitav Ghosh's writing. He succeeds in this. It is way better than the likes of FPS, the story is believable, and not at all as silly.

Since it doesnt aim to be "literary", we should not perhaps deeply analyze the characters and the story, and merely take it as an entertainer? In that case, it is 100% good fun.


(spoiler warnings etc)

That Abir Ganguly is such a coward, and does nothing about an innocent man getting killed by the police, even after falling in love with the dead man's daughter, and in fact goes on to rationalize this behavior of his by saying that the officer did his best, and became what he is, given his poor background etc. The author gave this touch to the story may be because he wanted to do a grander story, with characters being shades of gray rather than mere black and white as in pulp fiction, which is his stated aim of foraying into literature from journalism. However, I felt that this is not a great kind of "grey", and better greyness could have been achieved in some other way, where the situation at hand is more ambiguous to take a strict decision (Like Amitav Ghosh does in Hungry Tide, creating situations where you cannot choose easily between environmentalism and humanism).

Update: Abir's article never gets published, and the policeman is fictional anyway, so perhaps Amit wanted his characters to be "grey" while his ideas to be clear - the readers of his book get the point anyway. So perhaps I was wrong in my assessment above :)

Also, Sancho is supposed to be a teenager, 18 years old I think, but came across to me as a 22-23ish(at least) woman. And also, she allowing him to conduct his journalistic interviews about her slain father in the Food court of a Mall where she has never been to, and that too over lunch, was a little too much. And Abir checking "India Uncut" - Amit's blog - many times in the novel- they did not impress me particularly, though I read through these passages without stopping to think about this aspect.

But these are nothing when compared with the good fun that the book is. Also, I must mention: Amit's deep knowledge of political philosophies and current affairs has kept the book quite clean of idiocies, and has given Abir good depth.

On Amit's promise of us being spared of him trying to further his ideologies through his fiction: some libertarian views do come up, like the corrupt policeman's tirade the government being the problem (since the government has no competition), and the TS Iyengar's behaviour and his columns ("Government has cheated the people of Mumbai, and government should take action against this") etc. But these come out in passing, as mere simple,raw "cribbing" of raw characters, rather than deep thought or a speech or tirade (Howard Roark style) , and quite fit the occasions.

I hope Amit continues writing, and brings out more fun, interesting books, like this one.

Selective justice...

A government comes into power in the state. The Advocate General (AG), an appointee of the previous government, resigns, like many other political appointees. The new government appoints its own candidates for these positions, including that of the AG. Naturally, they will tend to appoint their friends, rather than foes, for such critical positions.

Now, when a corruption charge comes up against the Chief of the Ruling Party, who was a former minister, and who is already tainted by taking many other deviations from the Party's normal Idealism. The Party - except his arch rival - the Chief Minister, who has little power or followers in the party's governing bodies - denies the corruption charges, and stands by its Chief. The CBI, which is investigating the case, wants to prosecute this Chief, for which it needs the permission of the state Governor. The Party (again, sans the CM) is still vehemently and aggressively with the Party Chief.

The Governor, going by convention, asks the opinion of the cabinet, about prosecuting the Chief. Now, what if the cabinet responds by saying - "No, dont prosecute our leader!"? Will it have any legitimacy? Will someone believe that the cabinet took a neutral decision, and they would have done the same thing even if the accused in the case was the Chief of the Opposition Party, because they are going by the merits of the case, and not to save its leader? No. Not someone with basic commonsense.

So the cabinet - endowed with copious amounts of basic commonsense - passes on the baton to the AG, to take the call. The AG is a "constitutional office" - separate from the government and the cabinet, even though he was appointed by the cabinet, and he still swears that he's a communist sympathizer (the communists are ruling the state). Commonsense prevailed again, with the AG recommending not to prosecute the Chief. No surprises there. What else did you expect?

The cabinet passes on the decision to the Governor, who has to take the final call.

The Governor, waits for some more time, talks to some more people (some say legal experts, and the CBI), and decided that the Chief should be prosecuted. The Chief and his party cries foul, and argues that this is the demise of democracy etc, with the Governor going by the police's voice than the democratically elected government's, or the constitutional office like the AG's.

Perhaps they dont realize that the executive, legislature and the judiciary has their own powers, and are independent to some extend. The democratic mandate does not mean that the ruler can do anything,steal government money, and then command the police and other such agencies not to investigate. It also does not mean to misuse another constitutional post (the AG's) to clear your own desk. All this is plain commonsense again.

The Party in power claims that governor belongs to the party in the current opposition in the state, and this was only expected out of him (just as the cabinet was expected to not allow prosecuting its Chief). Perhaps the Governor is biased towards his own party. But when it comes to the matter at hand, the facts of it are crystal clear. If the Party Chief is accused as guilty, he has to stand the trial. It is only expected out of politicians, just to make sure that they wont get away with murder and theft, just because they happen to be in power. This is the law of the land, and it is in our best interests that it applies for all, without exceptions.

What if the case was politically motivated, and was raised to thrash the communists and their leader? Wont his and his party's image will be tainted, unnecessarily? The party- who has come out of these ages of horrible corruption in the overall polity with a remarkable lack of blemishes - wont its image be lost? If its Chief is acquitted finally, will the party get back its lost prestige, wont the image of corruption stay for ever? After all, Jayalalitha, Narasimha Rao and Karunakaran came out of corruptions cases as the acquitted, still we refuse to believe that they were not corrupt, with good reason. Wont the same happen to the Chief and the Party?

Most probably, yes. But there is nothing that prevents the CPI(M) from becoming a party of corrupt than the non-corrupt. That its past history does not suggest so does not mean that the future holds the same. In fact, we should not forget that the present leaders can misuse the party's past name, and get away with it by reminding us of the party's non-corrupt history. There are many examples in politics where the party of idealism becoming the party of the most corrupt. Congress and BJP are good examples. There is no reason that the CPI(M) wont go in that way. After all, the world is changing, so are the people, the CPI(M) cadres, and the leaders. If the CPI(M) has started becoming corrupt, let the accused face trial, and hopefully, get convicted or acquitted based on the real merit of the case. That way a rot will be nipped in the beginning. If the Chief is innocent, let him come out the trial with a little blemish, which is better than a a non-trial causing a complete rot of the Party and the system. Obviously, CPI(M) has good history of being partisan with law, for example it had misused its power in the Jayakrishnan murder case, where it caused the government and police to lose the case against the CPI(M) cadres who butchered the RSS activist and school teacher in front of a whole class of little children in pure daylight, and the argument in support of this went in terms of upholding the Revolution and the Party in front of the bourgeois government and rule of law, Party is above democratic law (only Party laws apply to them), or that the rule of law cant stop the CPM-RSS violence, people still get killed in spite of the police, etc. Let's imagine for once that they are getting a retribution here, for being partisan with rule of law, with the Governor being partisan now.

So, it is in everybodys best interest that we have to make sure that justice and rule of law applies to everybody. The CPI(M) chief should stand trial, just like every Indian citizen. If he feels that other Congress leaders also must be tried (another of the Party's defense), then let the police register cases against them. Or argue in the court of law.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gen X MPs

For the TV and the main stream media, the Gen-X of Indian politics are the sons and daughters of political heavyweights: the "Amul babies" that entered parliament from the constituencies they inherited from their big shot parents. The TV channels are running endless debates on them, getting the young MPs to the news rooms, making maximum use of their glamour quotient. Today one discussion was going on in some channel, conducted where else but the educational capital of elitist Indians: the St. Stephens College campus! Majority of the Gen X MPs studied there (after attending Doon school, and before going to Oxbridge or Ivy League).

(My roommate tells he is proud of the Shashi Tharoor's British accent, even though he knows that Tharoor did not live in UK long enough to get the accent, and also that even beggars in UK speak the accent. He was even happy when Tharoor told in an interview that he got the "fake" accent from Stephens! Like the cliche goes, Gimme a break dude!!).

But why I am cribbing about this! Because I feel that the amul babies are a sad lot compared to their big shot parents who hard earned their positions. A politician (non Gen-X), who rose from an ordinary man to start working for a party, who stood elections and won, who worked day and night for his politics and its victory, who visited people and houses, marriages and funerals, saying very little no to the people who come to ask for help, and actually getting involved in many of those positively.... That's how they rose in the ranks and reached what they are/were! The country grew with them, they had grass root knowledge of its villages and cities, and people queued up when they were in town. When the nationalised banks hesitate to give loans to the poor, the politician comes into picture. When the power in an area goes due to lightning and torrential rain, the politician is in the forefront to get it back on track. When the bureaucrats want to increase the price for electricity and diesel to rice and bus/train charges, and gain on the balance sheet, the politician comes into picture. I can go on and on.

Not that they are perfect. Far from it. Starting from corruption and nepotism, the negatives are far too many. But just imagine: an MLA in our country - not of the Gen-X or retired/resigned bureaucrat variety, but an actual politician - is too busy every single day, running around and trying to please (or help) people. Much more than an IAS officer. Or any other bureaucrat. He helps a lot of people. He directly impacts their lives. When the police shot down 5 people near Bheemapalli in Trivandrum, the politician entrusted them with suspensions, much to the protests from the DGP.

But the Gen-X know nothing of this. They are amul babies. When the anchor asked the Gen X reps at St. Stephens about their plans for development, the suckers were telling - "I want to change the image of Rohtak from an majorly agricultural area to the educational capital of India", and another MP from a small town in Orissa: "I created an educational boom in my constituency" (1st quote from Cong MP, 2nd from BJP guy, I think). These people, what do they think! That they have such grand godfathers that they can get away with their foolishness on the self-proclaimed "National TV"? What would their politician fathers would have told if this question was put to them? Do the Gen X MPs have any idea about the people who voted for them, or the total citizenry of their constituency, what their needs and aspirations are? And why the discussions in media gets carried away along the lines of these crap!

Oh God, or my dear media, I am so fond of saying, "Gimme a break".

Bored, Distracted

Thank God Its Friday: But what am I gonna do in the weekend!!!!
People at home wont be there at home over the weekend, except for one, so its gonna be so lonely!
I got a book I am reading and liking but somehow I wish more action!
Now just waiting for the bigfellas to leave so that I can also gettouttahere!

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Fine Balance

A college mate of mine got into IPS this year. A nice man, well read, good at heart. Makes me wonder how things are going to go, with him in uniform :-)

But what impressed me even more is watching the Kerala topper in this years UPSC exam: Mithra T - on TV (Nammal Thammil in Asianet and an interview in Doordarshan, especially the later one). She seemed even more innocent, and about she becoming a district collector: are people so innocent, to be administered by such a nice little lady! :) Though she had a heavy academic background in English literature, being a PhD scholar at Kerala University, she seemed very ordinary and down-to-earth, with very little jaada. The interviewer in DD was a serious fellow, and asked about "How Shakespeare and English literature has influenced you", "Did Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' affect you?", "How your background in English literature will help you in becoming a good IAS officer?" - etc - and she managed to answer these quite well (succeeding in hiding a smile, being asked such highly philosophical questions). She is not yet a great orator, and fumbled while talking about what she plans to do for Women (was at a loss for words). When asked about her favorite literary work, she mentioned "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry, mainly for its "social context", hurting the expectations of our bearded anchor, who wanted her to tell Shakespeare or Shelley. She made up by saying she loved Wordsworth, and he has inspired her in writing poetry on "Nature" :)

What impressed me was the down to earth nature of this year's civil service toppers. They all appear to be sincere, and though sincerity alone is no measurement for being an able administrator, that they could reach these levels through their hardwork alone, made me happy.

* * *

I am reading A Fine Balance now(thanks to listening to the interview). What provoked me to write this post is, in the chapter on Ishwar's history, the caste system of then (and now, though it has come down quite, by no means fully) comes alive. To disturb and remind you. How easily people forget things, and make-believe that such things never existed! Its all well to tell, lets have a stable government, let national security be our most important priority, lets scrap reservations and forget this caste system for once and all. Either you dont know, or you dont remember, or you are just lying(may be to yourself). Perhaps if you "feel" the urgency of the situation, the scenario of Mayawati becoming the Prime Minister of the country may not appear laughable to you anymore.


Madhavikutti's writings tormented me. They crossed all boundaries. The Women: they wanted "something" that men did not know of. The husband went on reading books, not talking to his wife, just leading a normal, sincere, monotonous life, but the wife, loving and respecting her husband, but with a heart full of love and wanting to be loved back, crossed the boundary, finding a lover for herself. About some girl who didnt want to study and instead wanted to be married off. About extra-marital relations. About love, about sex, about complications and contradictions of life. About the "Feminine", different from the "Masculine". Half way down the short story book, I called myself a callous pig, fell into depression, and locked the book in a suitcase, never to be read again!

The world is not black and white to be compartmentalized easily, it is much more complicated. If it is art that should reflect this complexity, Madhavikutti was a quintessential artist. But what made her stand apart even more is her courage. She was complicated, and she wrote what she felt. Her language reflected this. She did not hesitate when they contradicted with popular ideas and ideals: conservative or progressive. She created storms, and was blacklisted alike by people who read Tolstoy and Marx and those who had never read a book in their entire lives. Because they could not stand the truth, and/or because she was a woman. She is dead now. And I realize, reading her did not corrupt me; and though they never made me happy, they made me a little better person.

I wrote here what I felt about what little I've read of her. Now I want to read again, and read more, of her.