Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trapped in Wonderland

The Book (Le Senat, Paris)

Dawn of the Night (Town Square, Pontoise)

A Cry for Freedom (A street corner, Amsterdam)

Their Prophet (Another street corner, Amsterdam)

Open Space (Axe Majeure, Cergy St. Christophe)

The Road to Heaven (Path by the river, Neuville Sur Oise)

The Raven (Shakespeare and Co., Paris)

Their Patron Saint (Shakespeare and Co., Paris)

Melody in Motion (Quartier Latin, Paris)

The Middle Finger (Eiffel Tower, Paris)

Fodder for the Bookworm (Le Senat, Paris)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Adventure 50

Lok Paritran Revisited - Maybe I am a Clairvoyant After All

I celebrate my fiftieth post in a foul mood. Over two years ago I had made this feeble attempt at satirical humor:

However, that post had been inspired by the brouhaha over "educated" professionals, especially IITians joining politics. People were writing feel-good blog posts and news articles about the new wave of political reforms that would be brought about by two parties, Lok Paritran and Bharat Punarnirman Dal. I didn't feel too good though. Their websites and mission statements reeked of something fishy, and I couldn't quite tell what it was. Was it the radical and revivalist Hindutva in their mission statements? Their websites seemed to be full of the type of pseudo-patriotism that typifies their better-known Hindutva redneck siblings . That feeling of discomfort was heightened by the photographs of the members of these organizations. Somehow, they did not seem to be the erudite and idealistic scholars they claimed to be. Rather, they seemed to be, and certainly dressed like, the upper-caste Brahmins and landlords portrayed by B-Grade Bollywood movies. The kind that brought about the complex racism typical of India, millenia ago.The fact that there was a public outpouring of support for these political novices made me even more uncomfortable; the very fact that they could actually be the ones in power some day did not go down well with me. Thankfully the Indian electorate does not comprise of solely of IT professionals and engineering hopefuls at Kota. They rejected these pretenders who promised reform.

The Lok Paritran is now a party that has disintegrated into a morass of hatred. And sleaze. Take a look at their website.

Read each post fully and carefully. Savor the feeling of disgust that envelopes you. You might have believed in these guys, and they could have been in power. Be thankful that we had statesmen like Nehru and Ambedkar to put us on the track of some stability sixty years ago. Whatever their faults may have been (and I concede they had plenty), they prevented us from being another Honduras, Rwanda or even Pakistan. Be thankful that we have a person who is erudite, honest and pragmatic in the form of Dr. Manmohan Singh at the helm rather than a peddler of hatred and revivalism, as some of our states do. And be afraid. Very afraid. One wrong move at the hustings could precipitate India towards doom faster than you think.

If you are not yet convinced, here is the kind of hatred that's fostered among the brightest of India's brain pool.

Think twice about electing people who have spent their formative years in such cesspools of intellectual filth. Think twice before you embrace a change that might ruin you. Irreversibly.

Jai Hind.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Adventure 49

The CSIR Comedy

Read this post and the comments at this blog to realize why the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research will never be responsible for that next great breakthrough.

I plead guilty for a few of the last comments. However, do my comments seem more retarded than the comments made by what is considered to be a nation's premier science brain pool?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Adventure 48

Open letter to Richard Dawkins

Here is an email I wrote to Richard Dawkins (to the email addresses available on his website), especially as he has provided a separate contact email address for reporting design issues.
Website URL:
dateThu, Dec 3, 2009 at 9:01 PM
subject Please change your website design: Resembles a televangelist's website

Dear Mr. Dawkins

I have been very impressed by your talks and have read a little bit of your works. However, when I visited your website, I was grossly disappointed by its design. As an atheist and opponent of religion, especially religious fanaticism and chicanery of any kind, I would like to point out that your website has a very "American-Televangelist-Biblical" look and feel. It has your picture with an ocean and blue skies as a background, similar to a lot of fraudulent televangelists out there. Even the sidelines advertise your books in a way typical of several religious cults. For the world's best-known living atheist, that's not a very good thing.
For example, here is the site of Benny Hinn (whose name you must have no doubt heard).
I hope you take my comments in the right spirit.

Hoping for a new-look website advertising your ideas,
Yours Sincerely
Prithwiraj Mukherjee

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adventure 47

Name Place Animal Thing

As a nation, we do not do much to commemorate our heroes. The best way to do that is to rename great institutions and cities after them. Just like Washington D.C., Ho Chi Minh City and the erstwhile Leningrad, we must also rename our cities to honor our legends. Thus, it is only just that the great city of New Delhi should be renamed Indiranagar. While Bombay has already been renamed Mumbai, even the new (old?) name does not reflect its true regal heritage. Thus, it must immediately renamed Shivajinagar, while Ahmedabad and Hyderabad would be better off being called Narendrapur and YSR Hi-Tech City. What do we do about cities like Guwahati, Indore and Bhopal? For want of any universally famous local heroes there, they must just be renamed Rajivpuri, Rajivabad and Rajiv Gandhi City respectively. Port Blair ( a British name) should be renamed Veer Savarkar Nagar after the great freedom fighter who was imprisoned in the Andamans during the freedom struggle, while Aurangabad (named after a fanatic Mughal tyrant) should be remembered as Sanjaynagar (after the great visionary Sanjay Gandhi) from now on. Other meaningless names could be changed to be named after Sai Baba, Sri Sri, Dhirubhai Ambani, Muthalik and Vijay Mallya.

Renaming is not only for cities. Few institutions of national importance have been named after prominent personalities. A few honorable exceptions are the Rajiv Gandhi IIM (Shillong) and the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science at Lucknow (Kanshi Ram Nagar?. As a start, each IIT could be renamed for its local flavor. IIT-Shivajinagar should be called the Thackeray Maharashtra Institute of Technology (TMIT) in honor of the great family, while the one at Kharagpur could be named after either Jawaharlal Nehru (JNIT) or Jyoti Basu (JBIT). The IIM at Kanshi Ram Nagar should be renamed Atal Behari Vyapar Vidyapeeth in honor of the great statesman. The IIM at Narendrapur could be aptly be called Advani Business School, with a special chair on Political Strategy, while other IITs and IIMs could choose different combinations of Rajiv, Feroze, Nehru and Indira or Savarkar, Patel, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee (depending on the rruling regime) to name themselves.

What about festivals? We commemorate Nehru's birthday as Children's Day and Radhakrishnan's as Teacher's Day. I suggest that a certain leader's birthday be designated as Love Day. On that day, migrants from all over the country would place a single hair on his photograph or idol - aptly calling it Love Day ke Bal.

Awards are another way to honor our heroes. In recognition of his prodigious sporting talent, the country's top sporting prize has been aptly called the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. Similarly, in recognition of his bailout of Amitabh Bachchan, the National Awards for films should be renamed the Amar Singh Puraskar. The first recipients of the Amar Singh Puraskar could be the legend of yesteryear - Jayalalitha. Murali Manohar Joshi. The Bhatnagar award for scientific excellence could be topped (just as the Rajiv Khel Ratna topped the Arjuna Award) by the Joshi Science Prize (Murli Manohar Joshi is a legendary physicist for the uninitiated). Political hatchets could be buried by instituting the Modi-Tytler Peace Prize which would be the Indian equivalent of Obama's Nobel, with estranged cousins Rahul and Varun sharing the first ever bestowment.

Jai Hind!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adventure 46

Racist Microsoft Ad

"Please Welcome" with an Indian accent clearly suggests something black in the lentils, doesn't it? And as a country of call centers and clothes sweatshops, we must make sure to keep our Caucasian bosses happy. Kudos to the copywriters of this ad, who captured this sentiment so beautifully. Clearly, Indian Accent = Fake Product.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Adventure 45

Trip to Disneyland, Paris (A photo essay)

Ever since I was a kid, I used to fantasise about going to Europe on a Raj Travels Deluxe Jain Package, with Hindi commentary and pure veg Gujarati food and a cable car ride at Jungfrau. That dream never did materialise, but I was even more determined to go to Paris after they opened a Disneyland there. Finally, I did make it to Paris, and at the very first weekend, while my other friends did gay shit like going to the Louvre and other artsy places, I made the pilgrimmage to my Mecca; and boy, was I impressed!

Disneyland, Paris is extremely impressive, and the aura of the place struck me as soon as I stepped out of the underground Metro. The gate where I got in was like a park, with statues that seemed to be made of marble. I could not make out some of the characters being depicted, but the first statue I saw was of some stallion having his way with a woman.

I strayed into a huge building, which had Walt Disney and his girlfriend's pictures on its facade.

Inside, I was totally awestruck by a statue of the Little Mermaid.

There were a lot of rough drafts of (probably rejected) drafts of cartoon films (single frames presumably). In some cases, the lazy artist had used dots to draw the scene, instead of colouring properly. Such quirks cost Disney millions of dollars annually.

There was a statue of a scene from the ever-popular Hannah Montana series as well.

Walt Disney was known for drawing self portraits of himself.

Certain artists on Disney's payrolls had the temerity to sign their drawings, causing a huge wastage of Disney's money, since such frames can never be used in cartoon films.

Certain frustrated artists have strayed away from the standard template in movies like Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. Such rejected scenes are now part of Disneylands everywhere.

There is a very impressive replica of the Sleeping Beauty's palace inside Disneyland, Paris.

They have even built a mini-river or where boat rides are offered.

There are dark rooms which have stained glass for those artsy, intellectual whiners whiners who tag along with fun-loving guys like me.

The folks at Disneyland sure do have a sense of humour, and have livened up things by putting funny stuff on serious shit like statues of eminent people.

The kind folks at Disneyland, Paris have recognised the importance of Indian tourists, and have special Indian stores and centres, with names carefully chosen to reflect the Indian cultural ethos and diverse milieu.

Once the sun sets, there are a few adult entertainment zones in this great amusement park that slowly come to life.

Did you know that Disney makes porn flicks too?

I did not know that Moulin Rouge (the movie with our Chhamma Chhamma) was shot in Disneyland Paris.

On the whole I had a great time walking through the great Disneyland, Paris. Did you know that they have taken great interest in our tradition and named some dishes in their food stalls after great Indian sages. I ate an interesting sandwich called Panini (named after the great sage who created Sanskrit grammar). It contained jambon (I guess that its French for "jamoon", though it was not sweet). I was so happy to find Brahmin food in the midst of Europe!

On the whole, I recomment Disneyland Paris to one and all!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adventure 44

IISc and the Slow Death of Innovation

Today's newspaper carries an article saying that IISc plans to restrict internet access of its denizens to 1 GB per week per head. As a recent alumnus, I am not surprised. The Institute, for many years now, is degenerating into a bureaucratic corporate company well past its sell-by date (think General Motors, Air India), focussed on attracting on huge cash infusions, rather than the liberal centre of learning it was meant to be. In the recent past there has been a flurry of articles (press releases?) in various sections of the media, hailing J.N. Tata's gift to India on its centennial year, and the high quality of academic research being performed by the faculty here, and all of this is indeed true. But, does faculty research alone make an institution great? Unfortunately no. Let us look at some quirky aspects of the world's great educational establishments - places considered to be hallowed portals of learning - and we will soon realise that there is more to learning than just cutting edge research (with high-speed computers and the latest gizmos), and these quirks have contributed in equal measure to these centres of learning, along with their huge numbers (higher than IISc's) of scholarly publications with high Impact Factors.

MIT is known for its high quality of research in physics, engineering, economics, and a variety of other subjects. But, its students are better known for their annual April Fools pranks that have an astonishing degree of innovation in them. Recently, some students hacked into the Institute's website and posted the headline that Disney would acquire MIT for a few billion dollars. Now, not only would an IISc student ever be capable of such a prank, they would probably be expelled if they did execute it. MIT officials, on the other hand consider it a sporting challenge to thwart such attacks, and publicly share a laugh with the community when such a thing is perpetrated. Students at Caltech managed to change the flashcards in a cheerleader routine in the Rosebowl, while Oxford students managed to mysteriously place a car on the roof of one of the University's buildings many many years ago. Since gambling is forbidden in India, there will probably never be an IISc Blackjack Team either!

Jason Katz-Brown, a 19-year old undergraduate student at MIT created Quackle in 2006, a sophisticated Scrabble simulator that can thrash the best of champions (it is to Scrabble's Artificial Intelligence what Deep Blue is to chess), apart from creating quirky Linux games like Kolf. The entire scientific community (and scientific institutions who are cash-strapped) are thankful to the John W Eaton, the creator of GNU Octave, who, as the chemical engineering department's computer administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, created what was intended to be a basic differential equation solving package. Today, Octave is a fully functional math and simulation package, and the favourite of students with limited access to the expensive MATLAB. Berkeley Madonna, developed by George Oster, a biologist at UC Berkeley is another instance of a popular software package coming out of an academic institution.

Molecular simulation packages are the staple of doctoral students the world over, and Indian scientific institutes are no exception. Countless students of physics, engineering and chemistry in institutes like IISc, JNCASR and the IITs depend on at least one of GROMACS, NAMD or CHARMM to acheive their publications. These packages were not made by highly-paid PhDs sitting in cushy offices. GROMACS (Groningen Machine for Chemical Solutions) was developed at the University of Groningen, with inputs from the University of Uppsala, the Max Planck Institute and the University of Stockholm. CHARMM (Chemistry at Harvard Macromolecular Mechanics), though not free, is the hallmark of Martin Karplus and his group at Harvard. NAMD (Nanoscale Molecular Dynamics) was developed by a research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sadly, even though crores of rupees are spent every year in organising conferences and schools dealing with these simulation packages, nothing close to their usefulness seems to be ever coming out of the hallowed portals of IISc, even as these packages continue to account for a large chunk of high-impact publications coming out of there.

Let us not even go into the advent of Google (Stanford), Facebook (Harvard), TeX (Stanford) and Napster (Northeastern), that changed the faces of their respective genres beyond recognition. Even if a similar innovation did ever come out of IISc, the Internet restrictions placed on its denizens will ensure that these never see the light of the day. Hell, they may even be rendered dependent on commercial software, since Linux upgrades and the various new free packages available on the web will no longer be accessible to IIScians due to the regressive download limit. The computer administrators of IISc are like the CEOs of the defunct American Investment Banks - they just refuse to believe that the world around them has changed. IISc may have been the pioneers of Internet access in India, but it continues to live in that curious time warp, even as millions of rupees are spent to upgrade computers, electron microscopes and spectrometers. What is required, however, is an upgrade of mentality instead.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Adventure 43

Big Brother's Watching

Imagine a world in which you are continuously being watched. There are cameras at random, undisclosed locations, tracking your movements, and those of your compatriots. You have to wear an identity card above your waist, which contains your photo, and a serial number that identifies you. The card can be tracked by Them to locate your whereabouts any time They want. They decide when and what you eat, and also where you eat.

All is not a bed of thorns in this world. You are recognized for your perseverance and hard work by being called to dinner with the Big Brother. Big Brother is all powerful, a shining beacon who has risen from your ranks to His exalted position. You are, but a statistic to Him. He leads Them; They who can monitor every keystroke of yours; They who decide what websites you visit and what you don't; They who make sure you don't step out of line. Big Brother is part of a Hallowed Inner Circle, one that dines separately, and sits in special chairs in special rooms; that travels the world in luxury jets and gives motivational talks, while advising you to pinch every if it were your own. Big Brother is benevolent, a Comrade who understands your pain and identifies with your plight; he even shares your burden by subjecting himself to the same pay cuts as you. He however doles out little monetary gifts whenever your overseers are happy with whatever work you have done.

The above is not a description of a Communist or otherwise dictatorial regime. This is the case in most large corporate companies of the world. The regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe collapsed under their own weight, and so have a lot of big commercial behemoths recently. Maybe change is imminent yet again...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Adventure 42

The Atheist's Song

I am the Forgotten One
The real Forgotten One
Without any Lineage
Without any Heroes
Without any Past

I did not fight any bloody battle
Nor crucify a Saint
I did not spill some goddamn blood
For a God that really ain't

I am humiliated in my school
And made to chant their hymns
While my rational beliefs
Are dismissed as mere whims

I see big temples in the hills
And churches by the sea
Majestic masjids on the sands
But no sanctum for me

Forms ask for my religion
Am I Hindu, Muslim or Sikh
Maybe I'm a Buddhist (they say)
Or maybe Catholic

In forms I fill up religion
Because they say I must
While zealots all around my town
Spill blood on sand and dust

I swear in courts by their Books
But believe in none of them
I wince in silent agony
When bigots cause mayhem

I am the Forgotten One
The real Forgotten One
Without any Lineage
Without any Heroes
Without any Past

Monday, July 13, 2009

Adventure 41

Shallow Talk
Here is a little passage I have composed. I hope it will some day be used in a standardized test like the GRE.
The post-existential predominance of modern neuro-consciousness studies belies the statement "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." We live in a society where the paradigm of materialistic spiritualism tends to prevail over heterogenous ascetism. Consequently, spatial variations in the pseudostatic social equilibrium may affect the Machiavellian tendency to manipulate gynocentric heresies. Take the case of the pro-liberal serkali of Northern Tanganyika. Their attitude towards the bwana reflects a marked departure from the hyperrealistic outlook of their pointillistic predecessors. Consequently, their pragmatic behavior is markedly different from the moonwalk pioneered by Michael Jackson. Current hypotheses suggest the existence of a neo-Rastafarian oligarchy prevalent in the subterranean strata of Cartesian society affected by multiple syzygies in the hyper-domains in the planetary systems of Galaxy 49. Thus, androgynous body structures are bound to evolve as a protracted consequence of typification of hyperactive amoretti.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Adventure 40

India - Mystic Land of Snake Charmers

Mutton (Assi, Benares)

Brand Positioning (Dashashwamedh Ghat, Benares)

Typical Indian Men (Dashashwamedh Ghat, Benares)

Chaste Woman (Dashashwamedh Ghat, Benares)

Gateway to Heaven (Shri Guru Ravidass Gate, Benares)

Symbiosis (Assi Ghat, Benares)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Adventure 39

Her Majesty (Assi Ghat, Benares)

His Majesty (Mo Chit, Bangkok)

The Opposition (Dashashwamedh Ghat, Benares)

The Machine (Manchanbele Dam, Bangalore)

The Junta (Manchanbele Dam, Bangalore)

The Minstrel (Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok)

P.S. All photos were clicked by me.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Adventure 37

Cricket may not be fair but certainly not unfair

Chandigarh/Melbourne: Ever since Vijay Mallya monopolised this year's IPL, having been the good times partner for both the finalists, as well as having splashed the Kingfisher logo all over the Centurion, his competiors decided to address the challenge by forming an alliance of their own. So, for the first time, we see the grandest of all commercial marriages - Kings XI Punjab will now be bought over by Shah Rukh Khan (who is also the brand ambassador for Fair and Handsome), with Air France being their official carrier and Fosters their official beverage. Acclaimed actor Preity Zinta will continue as the cheerleader-in-chief, said souces close to Mr. Khan.

Leading management guru CK Prahalad has been appointed the chief strategist for the new-look Kings XI team, who immediately appointed legendary fast bowler Glenn McGrath as the captain. "We represent a region filled with an aspirational people on both sides of the LoC, a lot of whom scramble Down Under - obviously looking for that elusive fortune at the bottom of the so-called geopolitical pyramid", says Dr. Prahalad. "With a judicious mix of Australian and Indian players, we are poised to be the team with the highest brand recall, and have chosen brands that reflect our core competences and values".

"We will soon be unveiling our new-look team, where everything will be colour-coordinated to reflect our new brand identity. Unlike my previous team (who wore black uniforms), there will not be a single spot of black on my new team", says a visibly excited Mr. Khan, who will soon order his boys to dye all their hairs blonde. "We plan to hold roadshows all over the world, before we set up a special training camp somewhere in India, provided we get hotel accommodations for our Indian staff."

However, the the Indian Airline companies are against what they call an "unfair alliance", alleging that the presence of a foreign airline would rob the Indian Premier League team of its sheen.
- Agencies

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Adventure 36

IPL Urban Legends
Legend 1: Insiders approve of Fake IPL Player
Status: Probably true
There have been plenty of cases where bloggers have been traced (via IP addresses) and sued or hushed up by aggrieved parties with deep pockets. Shah Rukh Khan and Co. definitetely have both the political clout and the wads of cash to stamp out any small fry if they choose to. A recent post by the Fake IPL Player have put to rest any rumours of Shah Rukh wanting to sell the team (speculations that would have been disastrous to the team's sponsorships). The blog seems to be a way to keep interest in the IPL alive, since an unauthorised user can never cash in on the blog's popularity without getting sued out of his skin.
Legend 2: Buchanan is an Idiot
Status: No doubt
Sunil Gavaskar may have made some nasty personal comments about him, but it still stands that John Buchanan has absolutely no cricketing acumen. Even he has realised this and is trying to skim the most money out of his soon-to-be-ended IPL saga by bringing in his family. Just as Greg Chappell has done irreparable damage to the formidable talent of Irfan Pathan by using him as an opening batsman, Buchanan has earned the goodwill of his Aussie compatriots for having destroyed the Kiwis' most destructive batsman in both form and spirit. He may also have entered a revenue-sharing agreement with Ajit Agarkar.
Legend 3: Some Matches are Fixed
Status: Could be
Last year, the most hyped team (Deccan Chargers) failed miserably, while the rank outsiders (Rajasthan Royals) steamrolled their opponents. A very prominent Rajasthani was caught on camera recently, chanting "Super Over...Super Over" wen there seemed to be absolutely no chance of one, during the closing overs of an exciting tie, featuring his home team. Guess who won? However, the Chargers were terribly overconfident last year, while the Royals had Shane Warne's genius. This is one legend that can never be verified, unless the Kolkata Knight Riders suddenly start butchering their opponents, with Wriddhiman Saha winning the Orange Cap from here.
Legend 4: The Times of India's Pages are for Sale
Status: Beyond doubt
They hyped the ICL like it were the World Cup, with the main sports page totally dedicated to it. All articles (about 16 a day) were written by the same author, a certain Solomon Vijay, who has never ever written anything else in the Times of India or any other publication of note. Last year, the Delhi Daredevils had paid their dues, and were called by their proper IPL name, but this year they have been relegated to the plain vanilla name of Team Delhi, while the erstwhile Team Mohali seems to have suddenly transformed into the Kings XI Punjab this year. The Deccan Chargers are still Team Hyderabad and even the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Superkings seem to be stuck to being Team Jaipur and Team Chennai respectively. The Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore, however have paid their full dues, and are called by their real names on the hallowed rag's pages.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Adventure 35

Shitty Hero Honda Ad

Ever turned on the telly to find a shitty ad playing? An ad that made you want to tear out every last strand of hair from your head, and soap out your eyes? Recently, we poor Indians have been subjected to an ad as shitty as Ravi Shastri and Charu Sharma sharing the commentary box together, and more puke-inducing than a hypothetical party comprising of Varun Gandhi, Shibu Soren and Amar Singh.

For decades now, Hero Honda has been raising the bar for shitty ads, but this one take the cake. For proof of how shitty this is, fast forward to 2:30 (before you stab your eyeballs in disbelief) to see Priyanka Chopra on an 85cc moped being followed by high powered Karizmas!

I wonder why they didn't hire the above mentioned eminent personalities as their brand ambassadors!