Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lou lou lou

The last valentines day saw a load of right wing extremists in India attacking women for frequenting pubs. I just noticed a chunk of the article is missing at the bottom. Will try and fix that ASAP!

My very first article :)


One heck of a journalist.
This is the 'Masthead' of my paper. Ze Mysore Mail :)

Must thank a certain bunch of friends for giving me the idea on this one.

When bankers play God

Employees at AIG’s financial products division made a gamble. They lost billions of investor money and the American Government had to swoop in with a $170 billion in tax payer money to try and stop a few banker errors from collapsing the world’s financial systems. This kind of gamble by bankers happens every day all over the world trying to use our hard earned money as funds to make their investors richer. Note that whether its taxpayer money or investor money its still the average American who’s losing his cash to prop up banks whose only job in the world is to keep money safe. So in a democracy like America and India why is it that bankers have so much power? Why are the people trusted to manage our countries finances so lackadaisical? Every banker seems to have chosen finance as his career option purely for the luster of becoming rich and a startling six-figure salary. What goes through the mind of a young and budding banker while he or she decides to spend the rest of their lives managing other peoples money? If weren’t for the prospect of making a lot of their own its impossible to see why anybody would get into banking. Now that the system has churned out these ‘dedicated and sincere’ bankers, its time to hand over the worlds financial reigns straight into their palms, of course showering them with bonuses and perks all the way. When the unfortunate time comes that they mess up and the waters get choppy they are offered ‘retention bonuses’ to ensure they don’t jump ship and their ‘talents’ were retained.

Perhaps this whole financial mess was a one off mistake that was caused by bankers all over America making mistakes at the same time. Perhaps it will never happen again but either way they have too much power than their job detail, which can be classified as a glamorized math teacher. Bernie Madoff is a classic example of that. He has pleaded guilty to eleven charges in his illegal ponzi scheme which managed to pull the wool over thousands of investors eyes including some major banks. $ 65 billion was siphoned off and it’s unlikely those investors will ever see the green side of that money again. Madoff was caught because he was getting old (he’s 70). It may be a scary thought to assume that there are hundreds more young hotshots like him working the system till it runs dry and who will disappear into the sunset with billions of hard earned money. In India there is little that money cannot do. So it is even more distressing that what little infrastructure there is to detect this kind of fraud can easily be muscled aside by a wad of cash. Satyam is a case in point and though its founder Ramalinga Raju is safe behind bars a question that begs to be asked is where did all the money from India’s fourth largest IT firm disappear to? Was he alone in his cover up of Satyam or is he just a fall boy for a much larger conspiracy? And if this can happen to a company of this scale (Satyam is listed on the New York Stock Exchange) then what is the real level of corporate fraud happening in middle and lower rung companies.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Road trip :)

This trip was special to me beacuse i set out with friends and friends of friends who were all musicians. Even better we were all off to see Opeth. A band who's music i venerate and has innumerable fond memories tied to it. This is my attempt to try and do a music review/road trip journal/ personal diary :) Try and read it through :)


Ston’d is all about the music. A group of dedicated metal heads who despite their daily callings to dental college or work have managed to persevere to earn the title of “local legends” in the Bangalore music scene. They were kind enough to let me tag along to one of Indias largest college festivals where they hoped to earn new fans and maybe the respect of International Metal band, Opeth.

Every once in a while a restless soul needs a change. Just being off doing something different and seeing new things does wonders for the mind. I’m glad I had a chance this week to have a go at both. A group of friends had been invited to IIT Chennai for its annual festival called Saarang. They had been chosen for the college and semi pro band categories. Their band by the name of Ston’d being anything but. With over a 100 bands from all over the country sending in demos it was prestigious enough to be among the top 18 to be chosen. One long 7 hour train trip later we found ourselves catching buses and weaving between Chennais infamous traffic trying to get to the lush IIT campus. Another group had decided to drive down so luckily we were slightly less burdened with equipment than we would have been but nevertheless it was slightly awkward carrying guitar cases and cymbal stands in buses so overcrowded that people were hanging off windows. I hate exaggerations and this is certainly not one of them. But half the fun of a journey is getting there. Sure anybody could have called on an A/C cab with plenty of leg and boot space. But we chose to spend 16 Rupees covering the 20 Km route. Aside from saving some cash for extra food later on it also let us see Chennai the way it really was. The bus driver was friendly and popular with the locals. Aside from happily accommodating our long haired lot with excess baggage that would make any airline company roll over there were cases like the guava salesman who had brought his wares onto the bus and had placed it right next to the driver for safe keeping. Students at local primary schools were busy copying off each other’s homework on the dashboard. Everyone was given space no matter how little of it existed. Our first taste of Dravidian hospitality. By the time we finally made it to the campus however we were nothing short of exhausted, luckily the other group had made it ahead of us had brought their car to the gate and picked us up for the 5 minute drive into the campus where our hostels were waiting. Fortunately the students at IIT are a dedicated bunch with some of them staying awake into the wee hours of the morning just to ensure everyone had a room with mattresses and linen. The hostels were clean (at least the first two days we were there) and were perfect for a much needed nap. But that wasn’t to be. The Festival had started and there were events happening everywhere. From famous speakers dishing out lectures on the meanings of the universe to the trivial joys of life like paintballing and treasure hunts, Saarang had it all. It was the golden year of Saarang so IIT had gone specially out of its way to bring down some huge talent from india and abroad. In fact the main reason the metal heads of India were clamouring for tickets and a chance to show their stuff was because of a Swedish Heavy Metal band called Opeth. Opeth had been roped in to not only perform on the last night of the four day festival but also be Jury at the finals of Decibels, the Semi-Pro music competition. The Second day saw the bands sweat it out in the heat of day and with chennais sun showing no mercy it looked set to be a tough slog. We found out the Judges for the semi finals were from Junkyard Groove. More of a funk and rock oriented band they were rather known for being partial too thier own genre as well as being quick to dispel Metal bands. Added to that Stond’s previous encounters with the band had not been too courteous to say the least. But the band gave it their best. With a three song set and 15 minutes on stage they gave it their all. In fact the previous day Abhijit, the bands vocalist and de facto manager, had dragged the group to a jam room at the opposite end of the city to rehearse and make sure everyone was in the groove. It certainly paid off with praise coming in from all quarters. The band actually managed to pull the audience out of the shade and come up to the stage (and the heat) to headbang. Something not many bands accomplished that day. I must interject at this point that if they had played any longer I would have needed a neck brace for the rest of the month. But still there was no rejoicing. The mood was still one of quiet acceptance that they had come this far and this would be as far they would get this year. Aditya, their guitarist, picked up his bags and made his way back to the hostels. No looking back. When I followed him for a quick word on how he felt about the show he just mentioned how great the audience was and how awesome it would have been if they could have played in front of Opeth.

In a typical movie like scenario where most if not all hope was lost Stond were quetly listening and cheering as the top three bands were announced to go to the finals. There was even a wild card entry from the college bands called E-flat. Lauded for their use of an Indian sound everyone was jumping and cheering as Junkyard groove announced the Bands would play on the same stage as Opeth. To share a stage with an International band as famous as Opeth is an honour very few Indian bands have had, atleast at the semi-pro category. Finally in the words of Junkyard Groove “ the last and final band to be selected.....Stond”. The euphoria could last only for a few several minutes. They had to report to the stadium at 5:30 PM. It was already past five.

As a representative from Saarang led us to the VIP gate of the main stage of the 8000 seater Open Air Theater we learnt that Opeth had been staying on campus. Suprising considering musicians on their calibre generally demand nothing but five- star treatment. As we waited outside the main gate a silver Toyota cab pulled up and out stepped Mikael Akerfeldt and the rest of Opeth. So unassuming was their entrance that the bystanders present were momentarily left confused but soon the cheering and applause started and the message was spread. Opeth was in the house.

Watching the first four bands play was impressive. Starting promptly at five thirty each band was given a total of twenty minutes to set up their gear and play. As the evening progressed and got darker the stage lights started to come on adding to the drama. Ston’d managed to pick the last slot for the night and had the full effect of the darkness and stage lights. They gave it their all with Abhjith lunging into the crowds and starting up mosh pits. The crowd was nothing short of brilliant with metal horns being raised throughout the performance. Opeth too seemed visibly impressed but going by the previous performances nothing was for certain. Opeth were a seasoned heavy metal band and impressing them at their own genre is no easy task.

When the show ended Akerfeldt led his troop upto to the stage to announce the results. Anoop, ston’ds bassist won the best bass player award for the second year running. With that in the bag and a show to remember the band decided to celebrate with a midnight run to the canteen. The next day Opeth themselves played a two hour long set comprising of songs off almost all their 8 albums. Some of the songs stretching on well past the ten minute mark. Epics like Heir Apparent and Deliverance had the crowd going crazy.

--------------This is to be continued.... but let’s assume I passed out and woke up on a train station ;)

check out Ston'ds music at

Global Warming's Exaggerated Warning

Debating a case as un-deniable as global warming can be like walking a tightrope below which lay a few hungry tigers in waiting. On one hand to deny that Global Warming exists would mean you were in the pay of oil companies or any heavily industrialized countries that would stand to lose from a consensus that global warming was real and manmade. On the other hand protagonists of the global warming saga are accused of stopping development and trying to inhibit the growth of third-world countries that need cheap energy that many of them readily have in the form of coal and other fossil fuels. It is prohibitively expensive for the western nations to conduct what one African economist called “luxurious experimentation” in developing solar, wind and nuclear technologies. Implementing these technologies in impoverished third world countries is tantamount to developmental suicide as the prohibitively expensive costs combined with the relative unreliability of these technologies make their implementation, on a wide scale, nothing short of stupidity.

So what decides where people stand on the issue of global warming? It is the science behind the facts. Unfortunately in an issue as politicized as this with both sides standing to lose, the facts and the science behind it has all come under a dark cloud of intimidation and corruption. Each pressure group has its set of facts backed by ‘eminent’ scientists who distort charts and research to prove or disprove either side. The truth is that even the noble intentions of the scientists can be swayed by donations to their research fund or the draw of fame through media attention in making the most striking revelations. This had led to a frenzied cycle between the newly spawned breed of environmental journalists and scientists, both feeding off each other to make the most sensational headlines. The journalist knows his job depends on the scientist to come up with the most sensational headlines while the scientists knows the more publicity he gets the more fame and ‘credibility’ he will receive in the public eye and perhaps more funding for his next research into the supposed catastrophic climatic events yet to befall mankind.
Now that the world has been confounded into believing what they have been told for the last generation it is almost impossible to call for a requisitioning of the facts and the science. While two Billion people still live in unfathomable conditions due to lack of electricity delegates from governments from all over the world debate on tougher emission laws. The main argument global warming enthusiasts use is the carbon emissions released by automobiles and factories. However carbon dioxide constitutes a meager 0.054 % of our atmosphere and the largest among the ‘harmful’ greenhouse gases is water vapor that accounts for 95%. While western nations criticize their developing counterparts over emissions they gladly ignore their own countries were built on a wave of rapid industrialization. Sadly the methods that could prove or disprove the facts on whether global warming was manmade or not are heavily debated. One film by former Vice President of America Al-Gore titled ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is an example of the west brazenly championing environmental reform without looking into their own backyard. A counter film made by British filmmaker Martin Durkin for channel 4 titled ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ challenges pre-conceived notions that environmental change is man made and is simply a natural course, which has progressed for millennia. Both these films are a must watch for anybody seeking to investigate for themselves the truth behind the greatest potential threat facing us today or perhaps the biggest swindling of billions of dollars in phony research into a phenomenon that lays far beyond our control.

Cricket and its Fat Cat Whore

Originally titled "Cricket Haters". Wonder why my editor wanted it changed:P? Published a day after the Lahore attacks on the Sri Lankan Cricket team.

Cricket lovers; bow your heads a moment. Your sport has been attacked and the spirit of your game shattered like the windows of the Sri Lankan team’s bus. Tuesdays attack could not come at a more twisted moment not just for the sport but also for affairs of the region in general. In one instant three neighboring countries were tied to one attack and people of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka were glued to their screens.
The Indian looked for similarities to the Mumbai attack, the Pakistani looked for the possible Indian hand involved and the Sri Lankan looked for his beloved Kumar Sangakkara. Perhaps the rest of the world simply looked on in dismay at yet another piece of turmoil and instability in our region. What the attackers themselves hoped to achieve is best answered by psychiatrists studying the shoot-self-in-foot syndrome. Simple logic and reasoning from any half-witted individual would say that attacking a neutral country’s cricket team is certainly the most retarded tactical move possible. It has put Pakistan’s bid of hosting the 2011 world cup into the trash can. It gave India (and the rest of the world) a chance to pooh-pooh Pakistan’s claim to be tackling terror. Poor Sri Lanka, the neutral country, almost lost its entire cricket team.
Overall a loss to cricket but if that was the aim of the terrorists they have brought down the bar from holding entire countries to ransom to merely shooting themselves in the foot. Some quarters speculate that the original motive was far more sinister and that the target would’ve been the Indian cricket team had they not very wisely backed out. Sri Lanka unfortunately, eager to make friends, rushed to fill in and tout its ‘loyal relations to Pakistan’. Let us forget that loyalty would disappear as soon as Pakistan’s arms shipments to Lanka stopped. Lanka being in the middle of slamming the tigers back into their caves is in dire need of friends. Unfortunately Prabhakaran has his good friend Vaiko in India to promote the ‘eelam’ cause. So Lanka has to go elsewhere and it just so happens that Lanka decided to trade its cricket team for guns in order to keep its good relations going. God forbid India’s own pro-cricket-no-matter-what lobby had its way and sent the Indian team despite 26/11, the likely hood of this newspaper reaching you would be most improbable. But let’s not get ourselves down in gloom. Whilst the events in Pakistan unfolded India won the first one dayer against New Zealand. So cheer up cricket lover. All is yet not lost. Jai ho!

The Press Corpse

(Published March 3rd 2009)

No, that is not a misspelled headline. The press has truly turned into a group of mind numbed zombies on par with corpses. After our media began to boom along with the economy and thye number of news channels quadrupled in less than a decade we are now ‘blessed’ with an endless stream of news updates and opinions. The Indian media has taken it upon itself to be the guardian of Indian society and seems adamantly proud of it and determined to exert its influence in every conceivable way. No doubt some of the stories carried by the press prove vital in indicting corruption and waste. But there seems to be an obvious co-ordination between which stories are picked up by the media and tossed about like a dead sheep just like in a game of Afgan Buzkashi. It seems to be far more than coincidence that of the hundreds of happenings all over the country and the dozens of news stories coming in every day, we see about five making it to the National Prime Time. And you can be just as sure that all the other news channels would carry the same story, only at different levels of enthusiasm and glam. Indeed some channels more than others. This was all too apparent after the Mumbai attack that were quickly dubbed India’s 9/11. But just like a bad honeymoon the media frenzy is beginning to sour or even stink according to some off-beat commentators in the web space. The web is certainly the one saving grace for the voice of dissent.
Though not always accurate and unbiased (just like their mainstream counterparts) the Internet has given voice to many new opinions. One portal called details the process that American media goes through to categorically brainwash its viewership at the behest of Washington. An example of an Indian media critic can be found at Proof of bias in the print media according to the author is determined by how much space is given to real news stories against the number of ads being placed in papers. With the election season coming up he says that ads are being placed at a premium and that along with the recession that makes Government spending for egotistical politicians eager to see their face in the paper the main source of bread and butter for newspapers. Combined with the endless reels of coverage of Slumdog Millionaire the real quota of space for real news is insignificant. We are all proud of A.R.Rehman for bringing home the two Oscars but the real problems of solving poverty go beyond a few lines of Jai Ho!. Why are more relevant stories not being picked up by the media? Why did we have to wait for ‘Smile Pinky’ to win an Oscar award at a big ceremony in the west to acknowledge the documentary and the work being done by doctors to help children with cleft lips? Why is truth being shunned for glamour and the idiocy of wealth? Indian media dates back to the 1700s when small printing presses were clandestinely operated against the British Raj. It is now nothing but a sham. Journalists once braved imprisonment during the 70s to voice opposition against the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. Would they be so brave and vociferous now? Leaf through any of the national dailies and you will find your answer. Count the ads too.
“The subtle and not-so-subtle art of deception and disinformation through the media dates back till the time humans had brains large enough to process that idea. Propaganda has even been categorized into varying degrees of deception by terming it Black, Grey and White propaganda. With black of course being the most serious and white being a merely a slant of the truth.” -

The Frankensteins

(Originally titled Binding Lies. My editor dint like it.)

In a testimony to chaos and disarray that would make the devil blush this past week has seen some truly horrific events in our beloved SAARC neighborhood. From the Tamil Tiger air attack that hit Colombo to the mutineers in Bangladesh, Indian Foreign Policy and intelligence officers would certainly had their hands full. Luckily in a country as vast and diverse as India chaos beyond our boundaries rarely draws any ramifications within our country. Until of course, as in Pakistan, they begin to spill over. As our most conflict stricken neighbor (a title hard fought for with the others) Pakistan’s cracks are beginning to show up all over the place. Even as Gilani and Zardari bestow pity over their only other political rival, Nawaz Sharif, over being barred from ever contesting elections. Sharif’s supporters have gone on a rampage and protests which are now in their third day but while Pakistan burns the duo of Zardari and Gilani are busy signing deals with the murderous and barbaric “good” Taliban who now legitimately lay claim to vast areas of north-western Pakistan called the SWAT. The theory that sections of the ousted Taliban are more amicable to a truce and negotiations is ludicrous. These are tribesman who hail from Afghanistan and have been bombed out of their country. They are seeking revenge and any truce deal they sign now is only to regroup their resources till they can plot another attack. Where that attack may happen is definitely up for grabs since all that defence spending and intelligence that America has up its sleeve seems to have worked. Frustrated by this Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have and will continue to turn their attention on more vulnerable allies of America. The easiest of those targets being India of course. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Al- Qaeda’s Commander in Afghanistan warned India just earlier this month to brace for more of what he called “Mumbai Style Attacks”. As demonstrated by those attacks India’s nearly infinite and impossible to patrol borders with Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan along with 7000 Km of coastline make it easy prey for groups looking to flex their muscle. Back down south an influx of refugees from across the short Palk Strait has placed concerns that Liberation Tamil Tiger Eelam members are simply retreating to safe havens in Tamil Nadu to re-oranise and launch attacks at a later day on Sri Lanka. In a very similar situation Pakistan is being used as a terror hub by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda India too seems caught as a middle ground in a battle between the Tiger terrorists and the Sri Lankan State. Albeit the cause of conflicts may differ, the irony is that both groups, the tigers and Al-Qaeda, were set up and funded initially as State actors. The tigers by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Al-Qaeda by American intelligence agencies looking to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 80’s. Both decisions have come to bite their respective states back. India being a vocal supporter of a unified Sri Lanka as well as Israel (Osama Bin Laden’s sworn enemy) has certainly chosen a tough path. But are we prepared to defend our choices and lay a heavy hand against these terrorists. The rebellion in Bangladesh over pay has left an eerie reminder over the discontent in our own armed forces on disparate pay scales in sections of the army. Fortunately the Indian army is one institution that has never disappointed the public and has always stood by to protect them. Perhaps its time the reverse happened as well.