Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Day at the Movies

Wandered into the Film Festival happening here in Delhi. Ended up watching 2 ½ movies. Here goes..

Silent Big Man (Kikansha Sensei, Japan) by Japanese Director Hiroki Ryuichi. I found the movie a refereshing, simple story told very well. Seigo Yoshioka is a young man who goes back from Hokkaido to his mother’s birthplace to teach for the last time. His inability to speak does not deter him from imparting lessons to his wards – a small group of naughty kids from the local fisherman community. Neither does it stop him from teaching the children the little lessons about following the right path, aiming higher and the true meaning of strength. His mother’s ties with the village, the issues raised by the local fishermen’s boss and a kendo tournament make up the connects in the plot. The film has some great visuals of Hana island (where the story is based) – of the sea, beaches and in general, of life in the simple Japanese villages; good sound recording and background score. Score: 4/5

The Best Times (Ahla Al Awkat, Egypt). Directed by Hala Khalil, Best Times has at its centre, Salma, who has just lost her mother. Salma rejoins with two childhood friends, seeking to trace out an anonymous sender of mails containing a musictape first, later a horoscope and at another time a childhood photo of Salma with her friends. As the three friends zero down on one suspect after another, their search and verification effort leads to comical and at times, touching situations. The movie also involves some intertwined subplots of a wife’s attempt to balance her personal space and her husband’s expectations, a yound woman torn between pursuing her ambitions and a safer option of settling down into marriage with her partner and a stepfather’s attempt to win the affection of his step daughter. The movie was good in parts; decent entertainment value. The movie was a box-office hit in Egypt and also won Second Prize at the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival, 2004. Score: 2.5/5

Paradise Girls (Netherlands). The director Fow Pyung Hu sews together the stories of the lives of three girls. The first deals with a Japanese girl who follows her Dutch boyfriend to Holland only to realize its not to be. The second is about the tribulations of a Chinese girl in Holland. This is the precise point where your film reviewer had to leave the cinema hall and the movie half way. Promising to return with more reviews and half movies…

Blogging Hypothesis reigning true on Chutney Square

"Frequency (ßυ) at which posts are updated on the blog is inversely proportional to the distance (χ) travelled by the Blogger away from Base location"

ßυ α 1/χ

ßυ – ßlogging Frequency
χ – Displacement of ßlogger from Base Location

Friday, July 22, 2005

Pomegranate seeds on Mars?

Your guess is as good as mine. Awesome, when you realise what the pic above is about.

Kaleidoscope for the Answer Key :)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Statistics of Corruption

India’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2004:
2.8 (90th out of 146 countries)
Total money common citizens paid as bribe last year while availing one or more of the eleven public services:
Rs. 21,068 crores
Public Services surveyed: Police (Crime/Traffic), Judiciary, Land Administration, Municipal Services, Govt. Hospitals, Electricity (Consumers) PDS (Ration Card/Supplies), Income Tax(Individual Assesses), Water Supply, Schools (upto 12th)
and Rural Finacial Institutions (Farmers)
Most Corrupt Public Service: Police
Second Most Corrupt: Land Administration
Followed by: Judiciary
(Aside: Judiciary??)
In Judiciary, of those who paid bribe,
41 % had paid to influence judgment,
31 % to speed up or delay judgment,
28 percent for listing of case/ to get copy of documents.
Least Corrupt State: Kerala
Most Corrupt State: Bihar

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Rising Tiger, Racing Dragon & The Statesman Sam…

Are we to judge our growing importance (compared to China) by the welcomes accorded and the statements made during summits? Or base it on genuine agreements and treaties?

People who are familiar with the Presidential addresses at the US House of Representatives wouldn’t have been pleasantly surprised at the stand-clap-sit routine yesterday during our PM’s address to the Senate. Though the PM did look at times completely nonplussed at the uninvited applause for harmless statements, he did make a couple of significant points which only a confident statesman sure of himself could have made.

Dr Singh laid out an elaborate ambit to explain the kind of entity that the US is dealing with: the largest “functioning democracy”. So the argument was the engagement with India comes with no catches. Atleast no self-respecting ones, given that Cold War now sounds like a fossil fuel and the politicians across the India-Pakistan border have lately worked hard at keeping issues within the neighbourhood. US might be willing to buy that line, given the statements coming out of the White House this time. The PM went on to say that the entrepreneurial and the business class were “enabling India to participate in the global economy as an equal partner.” Working for an American firm and a truly global one at that gives you an idea how India’s prosperity is important to the world.

Fusion energy for Gas is the latest exchange offer on the table. Go Nuclear, says Uncle Sam. This is the same country which blocked cryogenic technology imports into India saying they could also be inputs to missile production. So what will come of these summit-glorifying statements will only be known twelve.. maybe eighteen months down the line. The Leftists coming down heavily when it comes to opening the doors to our facilities to outsiders is a possibility. One wonders if there is any such thing as a civilian nuclear facility.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Roads of India

Getting back to Bangalore is always fun. Making way from the Airport to home even more. Especially if you have to negotiate the wily passage extending from Airport Road running through Marathalli. Was in Chandigarh last Saturday. And I was surprised (pleasantly..) to discover roads with breadths as long as half a football field. Literally. More used to the monsoon-enhanced rivulets pretending to be roads closer to home, one is forgiven on thinking if the roads in Le Corbusier’s design are wasteful of precious real estate. Well, the slip roads (service lanes to the uninitiated) in Chandigarh are wider than the ITPL road in Bangalore or the Doveton Flyover in Chennai! Then there are the roads of Delhi. The Ring Roads are a favourite parking spot for the Delhiites. All you need to do is to enter one. I guess Delhi sets the record for the highest number of vehicles per square meter of road space. Here motorists conveniently convert the platforms into mini aerial ring roads. No wonder pedestrians prefer to use the roads and actively participate in the fight for tarmac space. The conspicuous ‘Central Road Research Institute’ on Mathura Road there has had little impact I would believe. Lucknow has no such luxury of a research institute dedicated to such studies as useless as road research. The main protagonists are the cycle-rickshaws, Vikram’s (fat-fat’s to the illiterate goons) and the notorious Sumos. Dropping passengers off at Charbagh, picking up new ones and slipping out of the chocked road is quite a craft at which most of the Vikram and Sumo Drivers have to earn their colours in.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

If You Thought Fevistik was cool...

What is it with these adhesives and their media agencies? Whatever it is, they do the bring out the best in each other. All Henkel Brazil wanted to do was aptly communicate their glue's superiority. Immediately they 'stuck' to the task. And have been ever since. The agency came up with a concept like none before. A monitor was stuck up to a wall. Period! And so it has been for the 41 days running. And beamed it live too. I've heard of cyber advertising but this takes the cake. :) The effort won some awards at Cannes too.

Heaven from Brookefield..

Monday, July 04, 2005


Has economics made politicians out of us common folk?

Anne Applebaum’s search for pro-Americanism also brought her to India. The responses she got weren’t too far from the prevailing assessment amongst most. Most of us see the US greenback as the single most uncomplicated global asset, which would help us to greater prosperity. So while there may be an underlying sense amongst us, of the agitated responses that the US Government’s recent political forays have received around the world, America to us symbolizes industry, wealth and despite Mr Greenspan’s warnings, still the Land of Great Hope. It is easy to see why a majority of the surveyed Indians also thought of America as a ‘good influence’ in the world. The US has for long followed a policy made famous by the Kollywood: “Be Good to Me; I’ll be Good to you. & Vice versa”. So if Ms Applebaum did ask people in India, “Do you think America is a good influence in the world?”, I don’t think anyone would have spent much time on a bit of geopolitical analysis and strategic computation to arrive at their answer : a resounding politically-correct “Yes”.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Castro Redux

Fidel Castro has never vied for any title as grand as the messiah of the poor. He has been more famous for holding fort at one of the last bastions of Marxist governing principles. But in a recent address to an UNCTAD conference, he did throw some startling numbers on the prevalence of poverty. Not only of people but of countries too. Though good portions of his speech were dedicated to taking shots at his ‘imperialist’ foes, he does make some significant points about how large sets of people and some countries would continue into a downward spiral. Unless someone from outside did something, that is.

Poverty is a given today. Worldwide or countrywide. Especially in our country where the inescapable truth (about the BPL population) hits you at every traffic signal or the local trains or at the entrance to places of worship. If we are carrying one-fifth of the world’s population, we should also have one-fifth of the world’s poor, right? Or More?! Common knowledge as they may seem, the sheer numbers still never fail to overwhelm one. Atleast they did me.

  • The Third World received as 54 billion USD as official development aid in 2003 while they paid 436 billion in debt service in the same year
  • 25 years ago five hundred million people were starving and today the number is over 800 million
  • 325 million children do not attend school
  • 85% of the world population lives in the poor countries but their share of international trade is only 25%
  • External debt of poor countries was 50 billion USD in 1964 and has grown to 2.6 trillion today

Mr Castro offers these facts and more in an attempt to present a case for a multi-pronged strategy including debt service assistance, healthcare assistance and population control. But in the process, the Cuban President stops short of offering any concrete ideas which might bring us around to think that the pitch he made is worth it after all. Towards the end, he does call his audience to ‘plant new ideas’ to circumvent the issues facing the world. More importantly, he reserves his best for the very last:

“The question stands, is it not too late? I am an optimist, I say no, and I share the hope that a better world is possible.”

The full text can be found here.

PS: Though light years apart on the political spectrum, leaders worldwide could look and sound strangely similar!