Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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Does Cricket Hype has killed the unlimited and diverse sporting talents of the people of the world?

Public opinion is the most powerful tool for change. No one can ignore unbiased views of people who observe things in perspective. History is shaped by expressions of a few thinking people irrespective of the power that wield or reign at different historical, cultural and structural contexts.

Now, express your opinion on the following:

Does Cricket Hype has killed the unlimited and diverse sporting talents of the people of the world?See some interesting comments sent by people


Cricket Vs Football !
If we think' out of india' it is not

I think cricket hype never killed the sporting talents of the peoples of the world. The best example i like to quote is the less turned crowd in the recent cricket world cup. Whether it happens in Football World Cup? NO!
(indian situation may be diffrent)
Deepu RV


Cricket Team is not INDIAN ARMY !

Come on friends give the cricket team a break.... they are not the indian army who fought and lost its a game and loosing or winning is a part of any game. its the media that creates so many issues. so let the team play the game and let the spectators enjoy it just as a game...:)



Nothing wrong with Cricket but for your approach !

A Cricket was to me nothing but a non-descript insect that would rarely be airborne. But that was before coming to India... I heard about cricket in 1978 and started playing thanks to a BDM bat gifted by my uncle. I have loved cricket ever since and I wield the bat and spin the ball at any opportunity.... but I don't remember the time I sat myself down for more than 15 minutes to watch even a finals...Personally, don't think there is any problem with Cricket.... its with our approach... our obsession with the game.

Cricket has lessons aplenty to offer...think of the immense possibilities that unfolded...Kerry Packer introduced cricket entertainment, cricket was responsible to challenge Apartheid and inspire diplomacy, Imran and Chapell brought strategy to the game; Bradman, Gavaskar and later Sachin took us to the limits of the bat; Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards beat the whites at their game; Abdul Khader, Bedi and Kumble showed us that the ball can defy gravity and laws of aerodynamics, Dennis Lillee used the ball to beat the sound barrier if not light, Cronje erred but owned up his folly and kept his integrity intact, Imran Khan has wage a battle against cancer thru and lately Woolmer brought techniques, empiricism and integrity to cricket.

And...don't forget...there are many who live of it....starting from the players, the umpires, the curators, the groundsmen, the vendors who sell you pop corn and the beer (there are people who cook, brew, and pack it too), people who sew up the T-shirts and put up the hoardings... now consider is it a waste? If Kerry Packer had transformed a drab, 5 day long, boring match played by Men in White, into something as fascinating as ODIs... why can't we transform ourselves and the people around us. Let's challenge this thought... let's mix business with pleasure and Cricket our lives.

Sonny Jose



The Unwarranted Hype !
Yes!The hype and overcommercialisation combined with excessive electronic media buildup over the past few years(not just this world cup alone)has closed the options for correct projection of many other sports on the country and consequently their talents.


New Delhi


From an unashamed FANATIC of Cricket !
Cricket is a game played by just a handful of nations, if you exclude
Minnows like Bermuda and Scotland. If the hype about the game has
caught the nation's fancy, the reason is that we think, 'well!here is
a game where at least we can dream of becoming world beaters'. We
simply refuse to accept that a nation of one billion people cannot
produce a single olympic champion or a champion team in a sport taken
seriously by nations all over the world. So we place all our hopes on
Cricket to salvage our national pride. Our cricket stars ride the wave
of elation and euphoria in the build up to the world cup, but once
they are out in the middle, the burden of expectations weigh heavily
upon them. More the hype, the greater the fall from grace.

May be all the hype has not done cricket any good. May be the hype was
at the cost of other games. But to suggest that we don't produce world
champions in other sports because we are a cricket-centric nation, is
stretching things too far. Show me one team sport where our national
team at least showed some promise, if not performance. If you are
suggesting Hockey, please remember that the last time we were World
Champions was a good thirty two years back. Forget the Olympic gold
medal in the truncated Moscow olympics of 1980 and our national sport
has no great feats to boast of in the last three decades. If I am a
corporate giant and I want to put my money in some sports other than
crazy cricket, is there any chance that some one could really come up
with a sensible piece of advice?

Like it or not, we are a nation of cricket romantics who pin our hopes
on our Sehwags and Tendulkars and Dhonis to thrash the daylight out of
Mcgraths and Akhtars and Flintoffs at least once in a while so that we
can sit glued before the idiot box, forgetting work, forgetting stress
and scream with joy in the company of friends and family. No other
game gives us the opportunity to flaunt our analytical ability and
flair for statistics. Just as there is mass euphoria about cricket
there is also mass post mortem of a lost game. We are forever ready to
offer quick fix solutions for the men in blue and share our remedies
wih not just our near and dear but even with downright strangers. God
knows how many friendships have been forged in sharing latest scores
and cricket trivia in a long train journey or a bus stand or a pan
shop! All said and done, cricket is a great leveller and a great
unifying force.Fat chance that any other game would ever mantle this
role, even if, godwilling, they throw up world champions year after

So stop blaming it on cricket. As an unashamed fanatic I would like to
believe that other games just doesn't have it in them to take the same
stage as cricket. But yes, I do change my opinion every fourth year
when the football fever takes over. For me, that one month is a
reality check about which is well and truly the real World Cup

Vasudevan IFS

Cricket Blocks Development !

Of course it did ,

why doubt

ban Cricket and India would be a thousand miles closer to development

mkgsj, Thiruvananthapuram

Towards an Integrated Rural Health Care Mission for Rural India


By Dr Sibichen K Mathew

This is an attempt to provide a critique of the National Rural Health Care Mission (RHM) through a brief analysis of the salient features of the system in the context of earlier health programmes and in the context of the multi dimensionality of the health problems in rural India. The objective is to examine to what extent the new scheme addresses the hitherto unresolved anomalies in the sector and the challenges in implementation. It is felt that strengthening the existing governmental machinery with adequate training, finances and leadership and its network with ‘independent’ grass root level organizations would help in effective implementation. The note also suggests the relevance for an area specific strategy for implementation and recommends that necessary freedom be given to respective regions for formulating appropriate initiatives without compromising the overall objective of the mission.


It may be quite unpleasant to start with a statement that the mission is , in fact, ‘an old vine in a new bottle’. However it also has its own positive connotation when one interpret the statement that it is also indicative of the consistent policy perspectives of the government and its long-standing desire to strengthen the rural health services. The latter view cannot be rejected as the commitment and the efforts of the government are strongly evident from the series of schemes, programmes, committees and policy initiatives in the post independent India...................

............................................As suggested earlier there is a need to have a micro perspective in implementing the RHM programmes giving maximum flexibility at the regional levels to decide on the priority areas. Considering the unique and diversified socio cultural contexts within India, it is imperative to supplement the efforts of RHM by suitable enlightenment on the social determinants of health in India as proposed by WHO. Research projects focusing on the above area would definitely help in strengthening the formulation of health policies and programmes focusing on rural poor.

(For full version, Contact

Damning the Culture :The Dams and the Rights to Livelihood

The present note is a brief analysis of the proposed Tipaimukh hydro-electric dam in the north east India in the context of the human rights and cultural implications. The note highlights the unique cultural and social consequences of the project for the affected population and their immediate environment. An attempt is also made to analyse the complex process of resettlements and indicate for a very cautious approach.

Man finds the meaning of his existence within the boundaries of his immediate environment. He is moulded by the cultural ethos of his ‘small’ world , draws his ethos and lifestyles from the unique artefacts and socifacts provided by his physical and social environment. His life revolves around the ‘primordial’ linkages he has with the place he has grown , his immediate kith and kin, his occupational and recreational interests and also the geographical and climatic contexts experienced by him. .............................

................................Let me conclude with the following words of former Justice V R Krishna Iyer:

“The developmental paradigm relevant to Third World countries cannot be a similar reflection of western projects and prescriptions. Growth of wealth is one component of development; a fair sharing of such assets by the marginalized human sector , by way of distributive justice is another component. Giant projects , welcomed by the proletariat, may alienate or annihilate the basic rights to life of the proletariat”

(For full article: Contact

A True Telephonic Story

Recently I had to visit a government office for some urgent work. Thanks to the out sourcing wave, the reception is managed by a private security guard. He was on the free telephone, chatting with a personal acquaintance. I tried clearing my throat very loudly to catch his attention. He looked up from his glass chamber and reluctantly cut-short the phone and attended to me. He informed the room number of the officer with whom I had taken a telephonic appointment. (Which was obtained after several attempts as ‘all the lines to that office were busy’).

Since there was no peon in the vicinity , I slowly but partially opened the door. The officer is on the phone and I smiled at him while he gave me a passing look . I took a few steps inside. We had not met each other before. That may be the reason for his continued attention to the impressive talk at the other end of his telephone. I thought , he would gesture me for the seat. Realizing that the officer is very much amused by the incoming gossip and also in a mood to part with his own contributions to spice up , I slowly came out of the room. I took the steps slowly, expecting a call from behind to stay back. I went out. One need not expect sufficient chairs for visitors in most of the offices. I walked up and down the corridor reading the colourful posters protesting about the the low salary and heavy work. I went inside the section were the staff were sitting to send my visiting card to the officer. Most of the staff members were busy over the telephones located in their nearest location ( one can mistake the office for a tele-marketing concern) or on their personal cell phones. Others were getting intellectually enriched through periodicals. As most of the personal jobs can be done through telephone, there are very few absentees these days in several offices. Truly, there is full capacity utilization for one office resource viz. telephones. A few were on the computers and was difficult to make out whether they were on personal network or on official tasks.

I told an elderly official, who might be the staff supervisor, about my appointment with the officer and requested him to inform the officer or send my visiting card inside. Before I took out the card from my pocket he told me loudly: ‘Peon has gone to canteen and therefore nobody to take the card inside. And saab is busy on the phone. You please wait near his room till he finishes his conversation or else you may straightaway enter the room’.

I went back and found that saab was on another line. As his concentration and involvement during telephonic conversations were at its best I closed the door and came out. It was about one hour since I entered this office. Thought I can reach him after a few minutes , I went in search of one my colleagues who also work in this office. Fortunately she was available in the room and very happily welcomed me with surprise as we were meeting after about 10 years. As I sat on the chair, she ordered for coffee and then enquired where I am posted and what is the reason for the visit to this city. As I opened my mouth, one of her telephones rang. She continuously said ‘Yes Ma’m, Right Ma’m,Ok Ma’m .. for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile other phones in the room also started ringing one by one , at alternate intervals. As she about to sip the coffee , which was cold by then, and as I was about to answer her first query , her phone rang again. The voice from the other side was so loud that I could hear the lady. My colleague looked at me and told that she is her office batch mate calling from the other side of the country and continued the conversation. They were talking all topics which amused both of them viz. the promotion prospects, recent divorces and separations among colleagues, problem of domestic servants and mother-in-laws, of womanising bosses , nutty lady bosses, kids’ home works and what not. Even after about twenty five minutes of chatting ( with intermediate smiles at me as if I am also a subject of the discussion or active participant of the conversation) , she was not in a mood to close the call. Meanwhile her cell phone rang and she quickly glanced the number and said to me ‘call from kids. They want my telephonic help for homework’. I gave her a gesture that ‘I will just be back’ and hurriedly escaped the room. Let her think that I had gone to respond to some natural calls.

I walked across the room of the officer. Quietly opened the door and found an empty seat. But quickly heard a shouting from behind . ‘Hey who is that. Don’t you know that you just cannot enter the room of the officer without permission’. I turned back and so the peon who has managed to yell at me while attending to a conversation over phone, comfortably sitting in the supervisor’s chair.

It is a good news that we have achieved tremendous progress in providing telephones of all types to one and all. But it is a bad news that they are not used by the right people, at the right place , at the right time , for the right task and for the right duration.

While I was climbing downstairs and passed the reception to go out of the office, the private security guard gave me a warm smile and a salute while his cell phone provided me the entertainment by giving the tune of latest movie number. He quickly turned to his phone while I am about to return the smile.

Sibichen K Mathew


"Telephone story is relevant and quite revealing.Telephone has become an irresistable intrusion into space and time.Being a communication device it mars communication in person. What a paradox!Let people understand this menace and behave properly.The case is no different in a private office."


Why bosses don’t smile?

In many organizations one can spot boss who tend to keep his smile a treasured expression that cannot be showered on all and sundry in the organization. He thinks that the serious expression on his face and his measured words would give him an edge over others as one holding the very important post. He tends not to give an immediate appointment for those who want to see him even when he is absolutely free. His incoming calls are screened if they are from subordinates. He prefers to come straight to the business and targets during one-to-one meetings leaving no room to give a warm regard for the employee-visitor either in the beginning or at the end of the meeting. There are many bosses who get out of the car and walk straight into their cabins through the corridors of the office without even responding to the respectful and friendly wishes of their employees.

(picture courtsey:

In most organizations bosses are not directly imported from outside on a fine day. They are made to become bosses over a period of time by virtue of either their merit or seniority in the same organization. And employees and other stakeholders of the organization naturally expect better understanding and empathy from a boss coming up from the same organization. Of course, a certain degree of change in the interaction pattern is tolerable though not always desirable. For example, he may leave the luncheon circles he used to be an active member. He may stop cracking jokes with his erstwhile colleagues and may not seem to enjoy the conversations any more. Subordinates are kept at bay fearing demands for undue advantages.

However, the leaders who move up fast in the hierarchy should not forget the fact that his behavioural pattern while he was in the lower layers are known to many in the organization. A person who was known for his irregular attendance, procrastination , and boss-batting during his earlier part of the career in the organization would get ridiculing response for his severity in enforcing discipline.

Do the bosses need to be inscrutable?

Robert Greene in his famous book ‘48 Laws of Power’ advocates that inscrutability is a necessary attribute to maintain the power by the leader and to gain respect. However nothing can be hidden for a long time. People would come to know who you are within no time. Thus inscrutability is neither a virtue nor a leadership strategy. It is a ploy used by cowards who need to hide their incapability as a leader.

Bosses need to shed their aura

Society has placed individuals in different layers of hierarchy. Organizations have persons vertically positioned with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Though decentralized power is in vague these days in governments and organizations, the pyramidal structure is inevitable for better coordination and discipline. But the common tendency is that, as a person moves up in the hierarchy, he necessarily makes incremental addition to his aura at every stage by increasingly become inaccessible and formal. Bosses need to realize that the backbone of the organization is its employees. All calculations regarding performance, targets and success squarely depend on the quality of work put in by the employees. Even if the organization provides all performance linked incentives and any number of amenities, one good gesture from the boss will definitely motivate the subordinates much more that anything else.

Dealing with public

Even in government organizations where public largely throng with grievances, bosses and the designated public relations officers need to be more responsive. Many times public are happy if the officer give them a warm welcome and patient hearing even when the grievance is not fully resolved. Sadly, public are even scared to make a telephone call to some of the government organizations due to the rude and impatient responses.

Smile goes a mile

Warmth and kindness will make bosses more popular and respected in the organization. Those who believe in demonstrating a ‘busy boss’ behaviour and ‘boss means only business’ attitude are definitely mistaken. Gone are the days when one could extract work from subordinates through threats and undue manifestation of authority. Present day employees expect understanding, empathy and encouragement from the bosses to contribute their best.

You may also like: You are what your boss is!

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My son! Please don't watch the news

Like any other child of his age, my son was addicted to TV since he started going to school. He took the control of the remote and I was at his mercy to keep the remote for at least for some time in my hand. He was keener on watching cartoons aired simultaneously by several competing channels. He learned all the theme songs of various animated shows and thoroughly enjoyed watching all of them whenever he is awake at home. Both my wife and me had to quietly allow this obsession as we were left undisturbed during that period. We could hear protracted loud laugh as he watched those shows from the TV room. As he grew bigger and elevated from primary classes to middle school, he was loaded with enormous homework and assignments. His class notes became shabby and he was hardly keen on correcting the notes written by him. He preferred just to listen to the lectures of the teachers and do nothing. That is what he got habituated through the cartoon programmes. Just watch the show and enjoy. Nothing to think and nothing to do.

Like most of the young parents who live in nuclear families, we also thought that the art of training the children and upbringing them are ‘trial and error’ as no parent qualified a proficiency test in child rearing. My son’s diminishing interest in academics has worried us. And my wife reminded me frequently of several articles and studies, which admonished TV viewing by children. I started putting restrictions on my son. Meanwhile my newborn daughter got fascinated with TV even when she was on all fours. It was only a matter of just few months for her to displace her big brother. By the time she joined the school, she managed to snatch the unquestionable ownership rights for the TV remote. While my son used to hand over the remote to me with little begging, ending in mild shouting from me, my daughter simply refused to hand over the remote. The addiction to the remote was such that she used to hide it in secret places while going to take bath or while having food. She was fascinated with film songs, movies and tele-serials apart from the cartoons. Since she knows that I am a ‘news addict’ she will put the headlines for me retaining the control over the remote to herself. Our restriction policies miserably failed. My son also started sitting along with her (still the remote was with my daughter) watching movies, film songs and dances. Both of them became serious consumers of all sorts of emotional and behavioural plots and expressions such as romance, violence etc exhibited in such programmes and started forming their own attitudes and opinions about life. They became more influenced by what was seen in the TV rather than what the teachers or we taught.

At this juncture I started slowly introducing my son to the habit of newspaper reading. He was asked to write the news headlines every day after reading the newspaper in a diary. With a little encouragement and frequent reminders, he started writing the news almost every day. His general knowledge improved dramatically. He continued it for a year. As he unconsciously got into the habit of newspaper reading, I stopped compelling him to write the headlines. Now he is in class VI and he is the first person to snatch the English daily from me in the morning. If he does not get time in the morning he catches up in the evening. That has created an impact on the TV viewing. He started watching the news channels.

My son’s interest in reading and listening to news has created a fresh set of problems for me. First is his unending doubt on whatever happening around. Though that can be answered with little bit of updating from my side the second set of questions literally makes me quite disturbed and I fail to give readymade answer. He learns from his textbooks about UN as the international agency, which has the power to ensure peace and discipline between countries. He asks me then why it is not interfering when Israel bombs kill thousands of Palastinis. He asks me is it worth having fight over Kashmir as millions of rupees and hundreds of lives of both countries getting wasted year after year. He hears both Gen. Musharaf and Mr Manmohan Singh speaking of bilateral peace. He asks me why should people protest against the visit of George Bush, the President of a great country. Is it proper to show ‘go back’ signs when another country head makes a friendly visit to our country? He also asks me why can’t big corporates adopt some of our villages? I did not have any immediate answer to any of these and hundreds of other questions he ask me every day.

The third set of problems after my son started having interest in news is related to the investigative reporting of some news channels. Video footages of crime scenes and violence, reports about anti social activities, and scandals and scams about widely respected political, bureaucratic and religious leaders have created mixed feelings in him. There is possibility of children becoming vulnerable to violent images and messages due to viewing of reality footages in the news channels. As stories of crime, violence and different types of abuses are hot cakes for competing news channels, they rarely seem to edit that suitably. They thrive on most explicit presentation of events. Most of the spicy stuff is aired over and over. Repeated viewing of such stuff can result in having a deformed perception about the society around. I had to tactfully persuade to switch the channels when my son watches many such reality shows.

Now, I am relieved when he watches cartoons. I have started encouraging him to watch stuffs like the popeye show, Noddy, Tom and Jerry , Mr Bean or Nicktoons rather than watching the numerous news channels. Both my children seem to laugh and enjoy a lot while watching those stuff. Let them not for the time being, get upset over either the emotional outbursts in movies and serials or the ‘reality bites’ aired in the news channels. Let them face real life as it comes.

(From a Worried Father)

An Ordeal called School Admission

Providing education is considered as a noble service.
It is also one of the lucrative businesses in many parts of the world.
Many work with sincerity and devotion to impart education of high quality.
 A few work for the sole objective of earning income.
Read some thoughts on the subject below.

As another school year begins, it is time for thousands of parents in all Indian cities to frantically knock at the doors of mighty school heads. Though admission process starts almost six months earlier, March witnesses the zenith of seat seekers in various private schools. Many fortunate parents might have obtained the application forms months earlier after standing in long queues for hours. Others try their luck on several subsequent dates with the staff in charge of the admission for obtaining the application form. Those parents who come out triumphantly after submitting the forms wait for the day of the entrance examination. Meanwhile, you may have several doubts and needed clarifications on the fee, syllabus, deadlines, language electives etc. Rarely you get somebody to clarify your queries.

Tried to get an appointment with the school heads? If you get one, you are the luckiest. You thought your high sounding letters in the visiting card would gain you smooth entry. You are wrong. The principals are always busy. You might get a blurred image of him reading news papers or chatting with ‘confident’ employees through the tinted glass doors. He may also go past the reception in supersonic speed several times during the day. He would not see parents waiting for hours outside. He knows it better as he learnt the lessons hard way. Lack of access increases demand and the supply can be priced high.

You may meet your district collector , police chief or your tax commissioner without much difficulty. But think twice before seeking an appointment for a quick word with your neighbourhood school head. Do not get misled by the charity objectives or the logo proclaiming equality, honesty and empathy of the school. These are applicable only to the students and not for the management. These are the only places were it can be rightly said that right of admission is reserved. None of the other establishments, irrespective of the distinction of public sector or private sector, which provide services (viz. hospitals, banks, public utility providers etc) behave in such non-transparent manner.

Conditional admissions are granted in these schools stating ‘anticipated’ vacancies in order to build further pressure. You may also be warned that your ward may not get requested language stream. You would also be told that your ward has done badly in the entrance exam. All these would add up for determining the advance price you have to pay for the seat. And you will be given less than twenty four hours to pay the ‘admission fee’ which may be several times your monthly income. Pay it or leave the seat. This stage of admission process is extremely simple and quick. You try to tell them that you belong to the same community as of the management. You try to yell out that you belong to a minority community. You cry before them that you are in a transferable job and cannot afford to pay such huge admission fee year after year in different places. Nothing works. Angrily you come out of the premises to find an alternative place. Then you think about your daughter who is at home preparing herself with enthusiasm to join the new school. You forget and forgive every thing. You break your head and manage the requirement with much difficulty. Struggle continues to buy the school bag, uniforms, Friday dress, branded shoes, books, stationery- all from the vendors pre-decided by the school.


Such hegemonic conduct of several private educational establishments are beyond anybody’s scrutiny. It needs to leave to their conscience whether they are fair and reasonable in their activities. Do they uphold the greatest ideals of equality, honesty and social justice which are the primary objectives of education? Can their conduct make them guilty while claiming all privileges and governmental concessions as an educational institution?

And lastly, a very fair question from those academic heads:-- We need to maintain ourselves and therefore allow us to survive the competition. Who is forcing you to come to us for admissions? -- And I don’t have any answer.

Click to read related articles:

Stop this harassment: A cry for deschooling India
The institutional child abuse
My mid-day break with out of school children
My son! Don't watch news!
A mother who learned from her teenage daughter
A man who left the commissioner's chair

All that glitters is gold !

(The Power of the yellow metal -for everyone from women to Gods)

By Dr Sibichen K Mathew

Income Tax sleuths were busy conducting a raid on a big business man in his residential premises. Unfortunately for him, the taxmen could gather several incriminating documents indicating large scale tax evasion. Most shocking was the discovery of bundles of currency in gunny bags from various nooks of the house. Officials counted the same with the help of counting machines which totaled them at two hundred and twenty five lakhs. Obviously, the man had to just sit helplessly while the taxmen sealed the currency in suit cases. The man had omitted to pay the taxes due by him all these years while sweating hard to earn every rupee of those amounts seized. Bad luck!

The silence in the house was suddenly broken with a sudden hue and cry from the man and his wife the moment the officials started another exercise. That happened when the sleuths started weighing the gold jewellery in the house. Though the jewellery was worth only about five lakhs of rupees, both the husband and wife became very much disturbed by the process of weighing the jewellery. It is really surprising that similar emotional pressure and depression never surfaced at the time of counting and seizing crores of currency from the residence. They begged with the officials for not seizing the jewellery and tried to give every possible explanation regarding the source of funds for the jewellery.

The above incident is just one of the manifestations of the extent of emotional bond Indians have to the yellow metal. As in many societies and cultures, the life of an Indian centers around a number of familial, social and religious functions. This is irrespective of and usually thrusted upon by his primordial affiliations. In almost all functions, the presence of (or presents of) gold jewellery is inevitable. Even when the child is in the womb of the mother, a ritual called ‘valaikappu’ is performed on the pregnant woman in most of the places. All the elderly women and her parents adorn her with gold ornaments. Later, after the delivery it is a common tradition to feed the child with gold and honey (within hours of the birth). Gold chain is put on the baby’s waist on the twenty eighth day after the birth. After a few months, the naming ceremony is conducted wherein the child is given new ornaments by the close relatives. It is customary to receive gold jewellery during ceremonies and functions like tonsuring and ear-boring ceremonies, annaprasannam (first meal ceremony), vidyarambham (initiating the child to learning alphabets by writing on her tongue, mostly with gold), upanayanam (sacred thread wearing ceremony among the Brahmin community), puberty ceremony, marriage (where jewellery with thali or mangalsutra is tied and adorned on the bride by the bride groom. All these are occasions for people to run to the nearest jewellery shop. Thus the jewellery has become an important cultural artifact for Indians.

Apart from the above cultural significance attributed to gold, it is also a metal which brings along with it emotional and social security, empowerment and social status. For Indian women gold is both a source of security as well as power. Unlike many other family assets, women hold the role as the custodian of the gold jewellery in many homes. That has made the attempts of many men to dispose of the jewellery not as smooth as in the case of other family assets. It also gave the women emotional and economic security as they have the option to pledge or sell a part of the jewellery for personal emergencies.

However, it is also a source for frequent fights between couples and between both families. Gold jewellery takes the form of a villain in many relationships. People make and break marriages in the name of the quantity and quality of gold jewellery. There are several instances were desperate fathers have adorned their daughters with gold coated imitation jewellery to keep up their status amidst financial troubles. Only misery awaited to those daughters who landed in the hands of equally avaricious in-laws. Relationships in society are embedded with several sovereigns of gold jewellery which in turn defined the nature of reciprocity between people.

The possession of gold as a valuable asset providing easy liquidity at the time of financial crisis is widely recognized by many Indian families. It is an asset which is transacted more widely and frequently than any other asset such as land, cash deposits, shares, debentures etc. Though many still consider gold as a poor choice for investment as compared to real estate and bank deposits, the overall price fluctuation of various assets as compared to gold need to be considered. The price of 10gms of gold in the 1950s was less than Rs 100/- , and the same costed about Rs 4500 in the year 2000. The gold price almost touched a whopping 10000 mark in May 2006. It is not only a good hedge against inflation, but also increasingly recognized as akin to other liquid assets like bank deposits as financial institutions give loans on retail gold reserves.

India’s stock of gold is conservatively estimated at about Rs 500,000 crores and it continues to be the world’s largest consumer of gold. At least one-fifth of world supply of gold reaches India. It is projected that the dwindling global gold reserves, combined with increasing demand from countries like India and Japan will result in further steep rise in gold prices. One does not know what prompted Henry Ford to comment that the gold is the most useless thing in the world.

Though the demand for gold and gold jewellery has increased irrespective of the sharp increase in prices, the younger generation seem not much inclined to adorn themselves with the heavy stuff. These days, the preference is for lighter ornaments of latest fashion and craftsmanship. Young brides take pride in more costly but less crowded diamond studded gold jewellery to massive necklaces and other matching accompaniments. Platinum is yet to pick up its market for various reasons.

If people are not so fascinated with gold these days, the elasticity of demand is maintained by anther set of consumers. They are the Gods and Godmen. Famous temples are replacing the silver plating on their idols with gold. Many temple trusts have started renovating their temple domes with more quantities of gold. Many famous temples in India receive gold jewellery as offerings from the devotees. It is reported that major temples in South India receive an average of about ten kilograms of gold from the devotees every week. The Saibaba Sansthan Trust has recently decided to buy a gold throne weighing 325kgs for the Shirdi saint at a cost of 22 crores.

Thus the demand for gold is here to stay and the price could go to unpredictable heights. Even if it is argued that it is an investment fetching only conservative returns, it guarantees to give social and economic security to the Indian middle class. Also it will continue to be a cultural symbol and a source for women empowerment. The new slogan is ‘all that glitters is gold!’



It is said that Iridium and Ruthenium (both from the Platinum family) are added while making god jewellery. In 2006, Bureau of Indian Standards had issued a circular to all hallmarking centres to look for Iridium and Ruthenium (Times of India 30 January 2009)

The Sensual Mallu and the Web Culture

(An inquiry in Cyber-Sociology)

By Sibichen K Mathew

Kerala is unique in several respects. So are malayalis (also called  ‘mallus’, the inhabitants of the state of Kerala, South India whose mother tongue is malayalam. ) This small state in the southern tip of India sends millions to various corners of the world. They render their services as teachers, engineers, nurses, software professionals and also in may fields. Kerala is also known to be the biggest consumer of personal and domestic goods and conspicuous consumption is the order than exception. Believes in extreme cleanliness, it is said that Kerala men take bath twice or thrice a day! Despite the progress, exposure and overall educational achievement, this state also claims to manifest itself as a society upholding pseudo- conservative values. It wants it women to walk behind the men. It frowns upon women who work late hours outside. There is strict demarcation of seats between women and men in buses, churches etc. Arranged marriage is a virtue. List is endless.

Unfortunately there is also an extremely contrasting flip side for the ‘enlightened’ malayali culture. That is its ugly manifestations of the sexual impulsiveness emanated from a sexually repressed community with superficial value system. One can see several men who spread their wings of unfulfilled desires on hapless women in public transports and private domains. One can see that in the ravaging eyes of men who shamelessly focus on every unaccompanied lady on the road the moment sun sets in.

Though prevalent mores strongly discourage any public exhibition of romance even among those legally wed, there is no such effective ban on visual entertainment through whatever available sources. Malayalam movies were known for its pornographic content in the seventies and eighties. Some of the Malayalam movies still make their presence in other states of the country for the above historic reputation and not because of directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who placed Malayalam cinema in the world map. Many such Malayalam movies are dubbed to most of the Indian languages. One senior police officer from another state narrated some facts that speak for themselves. Raids in almost all video shops have resulted in the seizure of thousands of compact discs containing Malayalam pornographic content. This language is second only to English in providing such visual stuff for the vicarious satisfaction of millions of expatriate malayalis. Why there is no such substantial contribution from any of the other Indian languages. Does it tell about the behavioural pattern of malayalis vis-à-vis people of other states?

Another equally shocking disclosure is about the role of cyber cafes in sourcing and disseminating such materials. Cyber cafés in the main cities of the ‘conservative’ Kerala provide a ‘cubicle avenue’ for hundreds of young couples to express their intimacies in private. Little they know about the sneaky café owner who record such market worthy stuff through a tiny digital camera placed at a well-researched position. These videos are stored in discs and copied for the consumption of millions of needy malayalis and for equally hungry foreigners. The not-so-innocent victims who ‘acted’ in such video clips can pray that such stuff are not seen by their own kith and kin residing in some other parts of the world.

Mallu web culture

Malayalis are quick to indulge in infotainments of all sorts much ahead of several linguistic collectivities. They also make their unique impression on such activities in their own typical way. Internet provides cheaper, faster and diverse information on any subject. It also caters to communication needs across the globe. Net-chats provide unhindered communication between known and unknown persons across the globe. There are hundreds of chat rooms on every aspect of knowledge, life and society. One such category of chat room is regional chat rooms where different ethnic and linguistic groups share their news, views, and ideas. Mumbites, Calcuttans, Tamilians, Gujarathis and many such regions have their own chat groups in the net. There are even locations one can zoom in further in a particular city. For example desperate chatters can even narrow down for their counterparts attached to specific locations such as Brigade Road in Bangalore city or Defence Colony in Delhi. Keralites are also never behind such unique opportunity in the World Wide Web. There are hundreds of malayali chat rooms by leading server providers. One of my Keralite lady friends who entered one such room for some healthy conversation had to log out in no time. One may be curious to find what is so unique about many malayali chat rooms so that ladies flee out instantly.

The moment you log in to these rooms, it is advised to keep your voice chat in the off position. That means your microphones should be off. Otherwise you tend to hear all sorts of highest degree abuses in Malayalam between anonymous chatters. In the comfort of a mysterious obscurity provided by the dubious user name and misleading disingenuous profile, they converse crossing the boarders to vulgarity and offence. The moment a lady user name (not necessarily a lady, as many fake their gender for reasons known to them) appears, entire desperate crowd frantically pounce over that user with very intimate questions. If the gender of the victim is genuine, she would disappear from the clutches of the empathizing counterparts and their filthy conversations.

The irony is that similar web culture is not reported about other chat rooms. The friends from other regional and linguistic identities vouch that such licentious banter typical of mallu chat rooms are very rare in other chat locations. Hundreds of Kerala based network groups which store and exchange pornographic content have been blocked by several search engines and web servers. However many of them return to the web space with pseudonyms.

Though the above behavioural pattern cannot be perceived as a serious criminal offence and is also not a universal phenomena among all Keralites, it tend to expose the moral degradation of a sizable population, partly a consequent of a repressed culture. Obsession to external cleanliness is often marred by pseudo morality. One would not be surprised to see the news of hundreds of sex scandals and sex hospitality centers from a state that frowns upon things like beer parlours, ladies wearing fashionable dress etc that are very common in other states. Kerala lives with many such paradoxes. And mallu web culture is only just one such manifestation. It is high time that policy makers and social activists break the shell of hypocritical purity of Kerala and provide licensed centers to fulfill the desires of Kerala men as in several western countries. Let the ‘casualty’ cases get a reprieve from the repressed feelings through licensed entry without covering their heads. And let women walk and live peacefully without any harm from such chronic cases.

Read:  Sunanda Pushkar, Mallus and Sexual Escapades

Choose the book and start living

Books motivate millions of people and such books sell millions of copies. The triggers for most of the revolutions in history have been attributed to inspirational ideologies of great thinkers translated in black and white. Not only individuals but also very large organizations and institutions survive on motivational tenets of generations old and are contextually relevant.

Ideologies and manifestoes seldom motivate the people for action. They are neither interested nor bothered to understand streams of knowledge irrespective of the realistic or idealistic content. In an era where change is inevitable every moment, men look for ideas, which give them competitive edge, and those, which can be assimilated and practiced in no time and before any one else. Therefore formulae, readymade strategies, blueprints and structures sell like hot cakes and fast foods. These prescriptions are marketed like life saving drugs with specific dosages promising definite solutions and measurable results. Many come in the form of multi coloured glossy prints with titles, which begin such as ‘five steps…’ 'Seven habits.’ ‘Six sigmas…’ '48 laws’, ‘ten rules’, etc to revitalize the body and to strengthen the soul. Yet another stream of ‘ready to cook’ stuff comes to diagnose the complex problems and to provide fast track solutions with simplistic models couched in shortest short forms such as PERT, SWOT and what not.

Most of the motivational books project an idealistic representation of man with socially desirable behavioural pattern. The correctional suggestions are made to make the readers aware of their deformities in their personality. However unlike the religious books, which work through a guilt invoking methodology and promise of a distant reward, general motivational books impress them about the impending personal gains. The strategies are aimed at making the individual win and therefore indirectly train him to defeat the other contenders. Thus the individual is motivated to pursue his goals through strategic action to win over others. That means one has to be shrewd or diligent or both.

One hears people using the word ‘shrewd’ in different contexts. If a person is pretty successful in heading amidst adverse circumstances and competitive environment, he is branded as shrewd. May be an objective recognition for being clever and smart. Similarly a person who is a go-getter by mastering shortcuts, circumventing norms and bypassing conformers is also perceived to be shrewd. The latter has a negative connotation. But both persons achieve success and contribute to the overall productivity of the society though measured rather mundanely. That underscores the conventional but still dominant canons such as the ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘end justifies the means’. This is true not only for individuals but also for organizations and nationalities, which aim at maximizing productivity through strategies, policies and approaches. It is inappropriate and unfashionable to drag ethics or morality to these life styles and they are left at the comfortable and ‘irrational’ realms of religion or philosophy. No one can deny the fact that sufficient resources are compulsorily earmarked to the institutions and organizations to research the alleged discriminations and to project the rights of those who do not or who fail to keep pace with the wave.

Two books stand different from the plethora of ‘life improvement’ publications by charismatic gurus. Both deal with a common theme: How to sail through life with continuous success. Both give very simple recipes giving specific ideas and action plans to forge ahead. However the suggested strategies are quite contradictory. One can be a handbook for those who would wish to master the tactics to jump ahead. And the other advocates other-centered perspective rather than self centered approaches to create value for oneself.

The first book titled '48 Laws of Power' by Robert Greene, gives tips for constant vigilance and tactical thinking. It advocates people to place their iron hands inside a velvet glove! . The book quite shamelessly advocates 'manipulative behaviour' to thrive in this world full of opportunists, careerists, spies, flatterers and traitors to gain powerful positions. Legitimizing the strategies with historical tips from thinkers ranging from Machiavelli, Sun-tzu, Bismarck, Kautilya, Aesop, Tolstoy etc, Greene has given 'pragmatic ways' to gain power 'by hook or crook'. (One should not misunderstand that these great thinkers were indeed became great through crookedness. The author was only interested to lift a few instances from their lives to substantiate his own tips). Certainly, thousands across the globe thought it fit to follow above ideas (whether they read Greene or not!) to achieve success in their lives. As you read the above book, you may recall many such people you have met in your life and career, who have reached powerful through similar tactics. And there are chances that a few readers themselves would recognize that you have also mastered at least a few of those skills in order to reach the place you are now.

The objective of the second book is also same: gaining success in life. But it pinpoints radically opposite strategies as against the advocacy of the first book. The book is entitled ' Living With Honour' by Shiv Khera. (Yes, the author of 'You Can Win'). It clearly describes how one can achieve success in life and emerge as a leader with real power and influence through the internalization of personal ethics and social values. It gives a number of illustrations to show that one can achieve success without being manipulative. It also takes tips from many thinkers of equal standing to those mentioned by Greene, to drive the point that only a man of values can be a man of real success.  Another better book for life is 'Manual of the Warrior of Light' by Paulo Coelho. Those who aspire to be a warrior (of light and NOT darkness) in this world should read this book.

Societal history is full of men and events of such contradictions and dialectics. As a result of this, both the definition of power and definition of success are blurred, contextual and variable. No wonder, what is considered as shrewd and smart may be seen as both manipulative and appreciative. All depends on who they are and what shoes you wear at that particular period of time. Today’s free world grants each one the option to choose the path and to succeed in achieving what they want.

Sibichen K Mathew

Evolution of Modern India-An interesting voyage with speakers who made history.

Book Review

Evolution of Modern India

-An interesting voyage with speakers who made history

Rakesh Batabyal (Ed) The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Speeches: 1877 to present , Penguin Books India, 2007 , 916 pages Rs. 595/-

“History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in.... I read it a little as a duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome. ( Jane Austen : spoken by Catherine Morland in 'Northanger Abbey')

History never repeats itself. But men are inherently inquisitive to know not only about their immediate past but also about the events shaped history. History as an academic discipline evolved over a period of time to make people aware of the cultural and structural transitions taken place within and across nations and communities. However, of late, there is scant academic interest to pursue formal history courses by students. Thus millions of people of the new generation hardly find the history books and narratives by historians appealing. However recasting history has been never an easy job. Even when historians attempt to narrate past events with lot of research and archival investigation, the same are never spared of criticisms and accusations of biases. Different schools of historians interpret history from particular ideological positions and one would wonder whether there is anything like true history. Similarly, people who control the learning institutions from time to time tend to add, change or delete particular historic narratives and historic relics. Consequently, there emerged a feeling that objectivity and positivism are never to be expected from history as it is told today by many. It is imperative to discover ways and methods to have access to uncorrupted history. One such attempt to deliver true history in a very interesting way is to bring it to people in its original form and content.

Rakesh Batabyal has made a very valuable attempt to take Indian history to all those people who would like to know straight from the ‘horse’s mouth’. That is precisely what he has done, when he took pains to compile 161 historic speeches of more than 115 persons who made history. Each speech clearly takes the reader to the historic, cultural and social settings when the speech was delivered. Reader would definitely feel that he is one among the audience and would experience both the emotional and intellectual reverberations emanating from the speaker. The book is a rich source for gathering unadulterated and diverse perspectives based on true narration of historic events and social facts.

Speeches one by one aggregate to a critique of social, economic and political transitions taken place in India since 1800s to late 1990s. Every social and economic issue ranging from poverty, untouchability, colonial subjugation to separatism and terrorism have been vividly depicted. Intellectual debates of global ramifications centering on subjects as diverse as communism, ethnicity, nationalism, revolution, communalism, racism and disarmament are very much relevant today as they were during those historic moments of delivery. The book, though a reliable source of Indian history, also deal with several interdisciplinary themes which would provide definite theoretical and scientific basis for future policy and research in the disciplines of sociology, economics, public administration and public policy.

The real contribution of the book is not just its efforts to bring about a systematic presentation of the story of evolution of modern India. But the vital role it plays to make history interesting to common man. I am sure this book will catch the instant attention of not only the academicians and students but also the busy technocrats, professionals and also the men in businesses who would like to understand the unique Indian trajectory to become a global player. David Mccullough has said that ‘history is who we are and why we are the way we are’. And this book will definitely help every Indian find answers to several of his existential questions.

(Sibichen K Mathew)


Excuse me…I forgot your name…

Dr Sibichen K Mathew

When was the last time you failed to recall the name of a person? When was the last time you struggled to remember that familiar phone number? It might not be in the distant past. Most probably it might be just the other day. Don’t worry. You are not alone. Many people suffer from this temporary loss of memory during these ‘microchip’ days. We thought it was only the old people who complained of poor memory retention. But do not get surprised! They are better than the youngsters and the middle aged lot. Do you know what is the cause of this disease? It is another virus: the technology virus!

Not too long ago people used to scribble the important contact numbers and addresses in a small diary. However even without referring to that many could easily recall more than hundred telephone numbers. Same is the case about addresses, birth days, anniversaries etc. The access to pocket sized digital diaries starting from the basic version of 32KB and later on those upto 2GB in the market was the first step in delegating the functions of the brain to the microchip. Instead of rattling around with various numbers, brain outsourced all activities related to maintenance of numbers, contact addresses, appointments, reminders etc to the chip. People who had all multiplication tables in ‘finger tips’ also thought it wiser to outsource even the task of counting their age.

Gradually cell phones replaced the digital diaries. The smaller size of cell phones and their multi functionality made them most popular among all categories of people. The brain was divulged of its responsibility of information retention and cell phones started doing a thorough job. People entered anything and everything in that little instruments. And if one misplaces a cell phone it is a real catastrophe. He almost loses contact with the world. And heavily addicted people even loose their way to their residence!

As a result of the indiscriminate delegation to and dependence on the microchip, man loses the capacity to memorize information and gradually brain’s power for retention is affected. Anything unused will become obsolete. Same is the case with brain. We face several problems connected to that. You got introduced to that person and talked to him for hours. But when you meet him after a short period you make intense efforts to recall the name. You had dined in your colleague’s house several times and still you fail to recall the names of his family members when you called or visited them next time. How many times you faced difficulties while writing a festival greeting card to your friends’ and relatives’ families. How many times you have forgotten your passwords and frantically clicked the ‘forgot password’ button? Yes, quite often.

One of the successful strategies in interpersonal communication and for winning people, is to address them by their names. If you remember the name of your staff, client, customer or student, and address him by that during the conversation, you accomplish your task much more quickly than otherwise. If you can remember the important dates in the life of your boss, close friends or other associates without referring to your microchip, it will be peasant surprise for them. But, we need to regain the capacity of retention by giving back to the brain some of the functions we outsourced to microchip.

Apart from the memory loss due to over dependence on the cell phones for information retention, cell phone itself can induce short term memory loss. In a study conducted in the Department of Bio-engineering, University of Washington, it was found that electromagnetic radiations emitted from cellphones can result in memory loss. Though cell phone, digital diaries etc are necessary gadgets these days and one cannot totally stop using them, one should take deliberate steps to remember as much information as possible through practice. That only can improve the capacity of the brain in memory retention. Now take a simple test. Start writing the numbers of your colleagues and associates in a paper. Check how many correct entries. Fifty, hundred or more?

Read a few comments below (Given by readers through the blog )


( spelling/grammer mistakes not corrected to maintain the originality of the comments)

Well thats really true, in college people use to tease me saying I am the Subodh of Dil..... (i forgot the name of the movie )

And now remembering date and numbers are next to impossible... the main reason I think is over dependence on this gadgets... i can't go out without my cell as without it i can't live i guess

regarding the ill effect of cell phones, i heard using ear phones instead of direct cell phone reduce the effect but using ear phones are also not that great... so our generation has to survive

Pulak Barua


Thanx Doc. its indeed an important piece of information....The UCMAS curriculum for the school children, helping to develop their mental abilities by training them to calculate as well as improve their memory and concentration by the conventional abacass system...on the othe hand, we have these electronic gadgets to actually ruin people's mental ability in every possible way....So I guess the message should be, Back to the Basics....which looks impossible to all the gadget freaks, in today's scenario..

----------------------------------------------------- Thank God I read this! And all this while I was thinking I'm getting old Btw, that was a wonderfully informative and an encouraging blog excuse me, I wanted to address you by your name but I think I forgot it:-{

Nargis Natarajan

----------------------------------------------------- I really dont think technology has harmed us that way. We might be confusing cause and effet here. Technology is a there to help and it is us who make a crutch of it. Dont you think?

Lokesh Thakur


A man's great possesion is his memory.In nothing else he is rich ,in nothing else he is poor.The secret of a good memory is attention and the attention to a subject depends upon our interest in it.Modern day youngsters have easy access to all gadgets which reduce the strain of remembering addresses,phone numbers and such other datas.They become so dependent on these gadgets that it gives the impression of their poor memory.Brain has a tremendous capacity to retain facts and figures.If we conveniently off load a portion of the storage capacity are we not giving less work to the brain and become less strained.In my opinion it is wrong to put the blame on technology.While putting the gadgets to their advantage a person should also take care to keep his memory as sharp as possible .
It is true that we must safegaurd ourselves from the harmful effects of electronic gadgets by using them sparingly.


DEar Sir,

See i forget yr name

I dont even have an idea of my wife or daughters cell number.Previouskly i could remember,now i hve to just dial the no from the cell.God forbid if the cell conks off and u are in a strange land.

What u say is true.if we dont use the brain, it will lose its power to retain info.i am expieriencing it.

REg names i am very bad,so i try to use a very crude weapon.I assoiciate the name with somthing else.

like today i met an indonesian called Maangolan.very difficult name to remember,so i just remembered it as first Mango, then refined it to Mangola, the soft juice drink we get in mumbai.

So even if i call him Mangola, he wont feel as bad as if i dont remember his name at all.

For eg my name is Kamal , and u can remember it easily as a Camel,the ship of the desert.So when u see me, think of a Camel,and lo y have my

Good one sir.Thanks.



Excuse me....I forgot what I wanted to say But I think it was .....nice post!
Julia Dutta


Dear sir!

The Humanbeing in the present generation is doing multitasking unlike just a decade ago, he needs implements to function. sooner, we will find new theory on multitasking forgeting name will be subjected to a cell phone not reading the name of the person ,,,,,,,through some electronic interrogation methods


The Festival of Bandh

For ages, protest is considered as an affirmative action for change. Groups and collectivities across the world have fulfilled their demands through protests. Strikes, boycotts, demonstrations etc are some of the common forms of protests globally. Protests have taken various desi versions in India. Dharna[i], satyagraha[ii], gherao[iii] etc are widely adopted by protesters in India. Social protests have brought about radical changes in the social structure of Indian Society. In fact many such protests and social movements were the embryos for many political parties and organizations. Sociological relevance of protest movements are historically recognized as they ensured civil liberty, fairness and justice when the states were ruled by benevolent dictators and autocrats. Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy of non-violent passive resistance was considered to be the most successful. Such strategies of passive resistance have been transformed to active resistance and different forms of violence have become an essential ingredient of protests.

In recent times, two modes of protests have become very frequent in some parts of the country. They are bandhs[iv] and hartals[v]. Though they have their legacy in the Civil Disobedience Movements against colonial rulers, they have literally transformed into Civil Disturbance Movements in contemporary India. Communist bastions in India viz. the states of Kerala and West Bengal compete for a world record in witnessing maximum number of bandhs and hartals round the year. Every hartal, bandh, and strike result not only in loss of productivity for the country but also in damages for both persons and properties. They also result in mental agony, uncertainty, insecurity and helplessness for the people. At the same time, some people love such bandhs. For employees, they are surprise paid holidays to idle away time watching TV and other entertainments. Statistics show maximum sale of bottles of liquor just on the eve of the bandh.

It is quite appropriate to evaluate the efficacy of bandhs, hartals, dharna etc in contemporary times. All over the world, dissent and conflict on issues, policies, rules and regulations are essentially anti-establishment in nature. Protesters resort to strategies to draw public opinion and to put pressure on respective establishments. Thus blocking roads, disturbing public service delivery, striking work, damaging public property etc are thought to gain immediate attention to the demands. However, in the present era of communication technology, conventional forms of protests would not only be redundant but also invite public wrath. Protesters need to explore strategies such as strategic negotiations, discussions or parleys with the establishments to resolve dissent and to fulfill demands.

Do bandhs and hartals imposed on the public by particular groups generate enough public sympathy? Even where larger public cause is involved, protesters hardly get emotional support for their actions that disturb the civic affairs of the public. Whether they take up general issues like price hike, poor infrastructure or social issues, many times majority of the population show tacit disapproval for bandhs and hartals. Thus such protests do not evoke much response in several states. However, states like Kerala, West Bengal etc are different. With a strong communist base, bandhs and hartals are common political strategies for all types of political parties. There are forced disruptions of normal life for a range of causes from trivial issues such as a lesson in 7th grade school book to global issues such as international fuel price hike, War on Iraq, Israel’s occupation of Gaza strip etc.

In an era of advanced communication technology, issues can be better taken to the authorities concerned through well formulated representations and proposals. Several institutions are in place to ensure that justice is done to affected persons or groups. There are commissions set up by governments which play active roles in ensuring human rights and to protect the interests of various communities and groups. Judicial activism and the social role played through public interest litigation have proved to be very effective in ensuring justice and to settle grievances. Right to Information Act and corresponding institutional structures has brought about transparency and efficiency in policy formulation and implementation.

It would be sensible to fight for one’s rights through the institutional structures in the society. If there are no favorable institutional structures, it is still possible to present his views and petition the needs directly to the high authority or through the widely present media. These are the blessings one enjoy in a democratic polity. It is sheer foolishness to adopt strategies of civil disturbance to achieve the goals, if one is really sincere about their fulfillment. This does not mean that social movements and revolutions are redundant in modern society. They do still play the role of change agents, especially to ensure fairness and justice from authoritarian governments and institutions. However, they can succeed only if they convey their goals with clear strategic plans and proposals at the appropriate decision making levels rather that firing the gun wild. Protesting groups and organizations need to harness public opinion through innovative methods that would not disturb the civil rights of people and the executive activities of the state.

(Another version of this article can be seen in my blog )


[i] Means squatting in front of an office or building to realize demands. Hindi word

[ii] Concept of satyagraha was rooted in the scriptures of several eastern religions. Literal meaning is ‘holding on to truth’. Developed as a successful non-violent strategy in the India’s freedom struggle by Mahatma Gandhi

[iii] Hindi word , means encirclement (mob or group of people surrounding a person or building)

[iv] Means ‘closed’ in Hindi

[v] Means closing down of shops and business establishments

Red light Musings: Bangalore Traffic Escapade

rapid transport, By Sibichen K Mathew

Any one who makes a visit to Bangalore after a gap of about ten years will be visibly shocked to see a total change. Their beautiful city has been almost submerged in traffic and traffic jams. One can see hundreds of passengers sitting disgusted in their vehicles which move like snails. Almost equal number of pedestrians helplessly waits for long on both sides to cross the roads. Only one group seems to be happy with the plight of Bangalore. They are the hundreds of beggars, hawkers and eunuchs who throng the signal points to crave for a living. The longer the red light, wider their smiles.

Someone, seeing the way vehicles outnumber the road capacity has rightly commented that the world will end with a major traffic jam. One would definitely feel the same while stuck in long traffic jams in Bangalore city. Many of us think wildly for a possible solution to this traffic menace. Following are some of my quick thoughts.

Do not give any fresh permission to set up any business establishments in the city limits other than those dealing with the consumers directly for essential goods and services
Levy a city traffic tax at proportionately progressive rates depending on the road space each vehicle takes.
Parking Fee should be hiked in all important roads and near markets in order to encourage travel through mass transports
Like in many other countries, students should be allowed to take admissions only in neighborhood schools. Those who cannot comply with the rule should join only as a hostler.
Major companies and government departments (especially those in rented premises) should move from the city limits and residential accommodation should be provided to the employees near the premises
All companies and government departments should hire buses for transport of employees
Bus Rapid Transit System tried in New Delhi and several countries cannot be implemented in Bangalore as most of the roads are not broad enough. However Auto and two wheeler lanes can ease out traffic congestion
Car pooling is not found to be successful in many cities. Instead of that, permits may be given to mini buses and SUVs to provide shuttle services connecting important places. This will reduce the congestion created by three wheelers, as 90% of autos ply with just one passenger and people are reluctant to share auto with strangers.
Roads to and near major markets should be closed for private traffic. Minibuses should be made available for conveyance in these locations
As there are rules governing provision of compulsory parking space for shopping complexes etc, there should be a rule directing all establishments to compulsorily provide mass transport to their employees. Rules also should be made, requiring the establishments to provide accommodation near to the offices. This will force many establishments to shift the premises to outskirts where the lands are cheaper. Almost 40% of employees in the software/BPO sector are singles. But many stay very far away and commute several kilometers by road. Those companies should be encouraged to provide hostel accommodation within the campus.
There should be concessions in sales tax if purchases are made online. This will encourage people to order the consumer goods online, rather than commuting to the shops.
All educational institutions should be asked to provide bus services for students and government should grant concessions on the taxes on fuel
Having two airports, one for short-distance flights and the other for long duration flights will be a sensible option to prevent traffic congestion
Deploy trained personnel (appointed on contract) to regulate traffic in all arterial road junctions. This can also be done by unemployed youth or students on part-time basis
Police and the transport department should have continuous discussions with the representatives from citizens to get regular feedback on the traffic management.

A competent organization should be entrusted with the work of studying the traffic congestion in the city and to provide with long term solutions. The team should comprise of technically competent persons and not just management consultants and policy specialists.

Traffic jam, though creates a lot of annoyance, give some relieving time too. Many tune to FM for the music numbers sandwiched with the hilarious comments of the jockeys. Some glue to the laptops and compensate their office load. A few connect to the virtual world through the wireless. And most keep in touch with their dear and near through their cell phones. There are people who have the unique ability to plunge into deep slumber till they reach the destination (of course, not those who are at the steering). Believe! Even this article is written during a busy evening journey from the office to the home situated just about 10 kms away. Hence the title: ‘Red Light Musings’.

Can we have an airport for 'people'?

By Sibichen K Mathew

Bangalore International Airport (BIA) has finally took off after years of wait and legal bottlenecks. The neatly done six lane road to the airport, the spacious parking area, posh interiors and lavish shopping and catering area are pleasing to the eyes.

Air travel, then a luxury, has become within the reach of common man quite recently thanks to the competitive tariffs offered and increased frequency of trips to various destinations. However, the impression BIA gives to every one is that airport is an end in itself and not just a comfortable means to one’s destination. But all at a heavy cost for people. At least that would be the feedback from ordinary citizens.

One takes the first step of his journey by dialing to the call centres of the airline. After long re-dialing exercise, he gets the message that flight is on-time. He calls up for one of the airport special taxi and gets a reply that it would take another one hour to reach and that too at a premium rate. Takes an auto which charges for every little piece of the luggage to the nearest BMTC special service stop. Unload the luggage in pavement and waits again anxiously for the bus. Decides to take another taxi as he is worried of missing the flight. Calls another taxi happened to pass by. Loads the luggage after heavy bargain. Then the long trip to the airport.

Almost three hours passed since he stepped out of the house. Finally he reaches the airport domestic terminal. One has to stand very close to the display board to see the flight status as the fonts are very small. By the time he finishes the check-in and the security check, he feels terribly hungry. He enters one of the cafeteria. Stands in the long queue and finally reaches the advance billing counter. He wants to eat something. Alas! Coffee costs a minimum of fifty; Tea for not less; Idli for eighty; Pongal also eighty. Settles for two vadas and a coffee and shells out of 130/- By this time, he has already spent about eight hundred rupees for travel and snacks. He needs to travel another two hours in an airline which will not give you even a bottle of water without begging. As the flight was delayed, he walks through the posh shopping area. Expensive garments, gifts, perfumes and what not. Suddenly you realize that you have forgotten the tooth paste or a towel. You won’t get that. Want an essential over-the-counter medicine? Not readily available. All shops facilitate conspicuous consumption than travel related essentialities.

That is the plight of passengers. If you had reached the airport to receive or drop some guests, a different type of ordeal is ready for you. You will hardly find a place to sit. You will wait for hours along with hundreds of others including the cab drivers holding your hands on the railings. Wants to quench your thirst? Be ready to shell out the price they charge in star hotels!

Statistics indicate that number of air passengers from Bangalore (especially for trips to near destinations) have reduced drastically after the opening of new airport. BIAL should understand that, all those who travel by air are not immensely rich to throw their hard earned money for substandard and over pitched services. People may travel for emergencies. Many travel officially. And who needs the so called ‘world class facility’ with a high ‘user fee’ price tag? Is it to woo a handful of rich tourists or to cater to highly paid CEOs of Corporates?

Let it cater to those who can afford. And let the user fee be doubled or tripled. But majority needs an airport without all these frills and glitz. Can we have an airport for people? (Or can we get back our old airport?)

The low cost window dressing of life

Consumer Diary

By Sibichen K Mathew

People get attracted towards those yellow tags in shopping malls which signify discounted rates. Eyes get stuck on the big percentage symbols on the glass planes of shops and show rooms. This is basic human tendency. People want to get a good bargain for their money. The rational man takes emotional decisions with absolute conviction that he is being benefited from the choice. He thinks the decision is rational. But the behaviour is often propelled by emotions rather than sanity. But I have a friend who never picks up anything from a ‘SALE’ labeled rack. The reason is obvious. He happened to be a retailer himself.

Who can assist a customer in judging an offer? His friends or relatives? Yes, if one has the time and the proclivity to engage in such discussions after finding a domain expert who has either burned his fingers or gained a fortune. Recently, I came across a website which boasted to be an exclusive one for the protection of the interests of consumers. Started browsing the web with lot of expectations and in no time the hidden agenda became quite clear. Another smart advocate!

On one Sunday afternoon, I received a call from my best friend informing that his dad passed away after prolonged illness. I need to rush for the funeral as I knew his dad too closely since my school days. I was quite fortunate to get a ‘low cost’ ticket of an airline for the same day evening. The flight took off, though about two hours behind the schedule, without any apology from any one. And it didn’t bother me much, so also others. After all, that huge ‘state of the art’ airline agreed to take many of us, though we paid only a very meager sum. Just after it reached high skies and passenger belts were about to be removed, the announcement came: ‘The plane is returning back to airport as there is a technical snag’. Sensing the unpleasant response from the passengers, the crew announced that the flight will take off after rectifying the problem immediately. Within twenty minutes, the flight landed back and a few technical personnel rushed inside. Nothing heard from the crew for next half an hour and passengers’ murmurs turned to mild shouting. None knew where those hostesses were hiding. It seemed that they have been instructed not to provide even drinking water to the low cost desi commoner. One male crew came from no where and announced his relief package: ‘passengers will be accommodated in a flight of another airline’. All passengers rushed down with the hand baggage and headed to the terminal to pick up the checked-in luggage. We were shocked to receive very rude treatment and response from the ground staff who said they cannot arrange tickets for any other airline as all of us are on low cost tickets. The airline had trained their ground staff (all tall, hefty men - reminded of the loan recovery goons of some private banks) to take care of the grievances and complaints of passengers in such circumstances. They did their job well. No one among the passengers could put up a brave fight against the polished goons. Beggars have no choice. Low cost passengers are underprivileged category for the airlines. We stood in another long queue to get back paltry refunds net of taxes and fee. As mine was a booking through credit card, counter staff gave me an advice that if the refund is not credited back to the account within the next three months, then register a written complaint with all evidences. I helplessly rushed to the counters of other airlines to buy a fresh ticket for another airline. But again joined a long queue for another low cost airline! After all, we -the proletariats repeatedly try our fortune in spite of many tough lessons of life. In fact, rational man should decide not to ‘go air’ with such low cost offers!

Businesses cash-in on the superficial rationality of customers by presenting equally shallow but attractive top ups. Thus the so called scientific cost-benefit analysis given by the business propagandists quickly satisfies the customer’s quench for a good deal. He lands in the trap to realize the folly much later. How will one choose a product or a service among a set of alternatives? One may argue that only the first timers will go by the propaganda of the provider. The customer will learn to take the right choice after a few deals. It is very true as per the common dictum that ‘no body can be fooled for long’. However can one indulge in such experiments if the stakes are very high?

Are all consumers fools? In a way, they are. Because the growth of our economy squarely depend on how much people consume. Therefore growth is made to sustain through various sops for the consumers. As far as the terms like purchasing power parity and conspicuous consumption are left in the seminar halls, there is nothing much for people to grudge about. Are they getting a good deal in the competition driven economy? Did you ever think that you could call up your relative in the other part of the world almost free? Did you ever imagine that someone would offer you a one rupee air ticket? However, please don’t cheer too much. The bubbles are bursting one by one. Everything started from thousands of ambitious consumers who took cheap credits to acquire over priced goods. The chain reaction is on. Consumers beware! Economy is at your mercy to save the world out of recession. Let us pray. Lord, let me not get lured away by the window dressers and by those gifts with long strings attached. I am too happy if the left side matches with the right side in the balance sheet of life.


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