Appeared first in 21Fools e-magazine


Mukesh Ambani is indeed worried. For a change it is not about the Reliance industries this time, but about his highly coveted pinnacle of being one of India’s richest persons. He is rumoured to have had a sleepless week and seriously contemplating a sojourn to the backwaters of Kerala to cool himself off. But what is it that is worrying him?

A week ago Mr.P was just another one among the millions of his kind in India but today he is giving some of India’s most powerful people insomniac days and nights. Let us compare and contrast the two people in question to know the real reasons for Ambani’s concerns. Laid back in a lifelong siesta in one of the most beautiful places in the country (surprisingly a communist state!), Mr.P is not unlikely to be the last person you’d associate with wealth given a choice of guess. While Mr.Ambani works hard round the clock to build an enormous business empire flying from one part of the globe to the other, trying to strike the smartest of business deals, spending a lavish portion of his fortune to build his house and what not! Mr.P on the other hand resting near the seacoast of Kanyakumari does not spend a dime and has an entire city named after him (without giving any bribe!) and not just a grand house. But the biggest worry for Ambani is the simple fact that his empire is built up on a bunch of depreciating assets whereas that of Mr. P is well founded on a massive bed of everlasting appreciating assets!

So who is Mr.P?

He is none other than the chief deity in the 9th century temple of Lord Vishnu in Thiruvananthapuram (mostly referred to as ‘TVM’ or ‘TVPM’ to avoid stress on the typist’s fingers) – Sri Padmanabha. His wealth is a whooping US$22Bn and still counting. In fact with one more vault (last of the six) yet to be opened and inventoried, he is predicted to become the richest person in our country very soon. In fact in the Forbe’s list of ‘World’s Richest Gods 2011’, our man surpasses even the biggest of names in the field by a distinctly convincing margin. His US$22Bn is way too ahead of Vatican’s US$15Bn and Tirupati’s US$11Bn.

But as the universal logic goes- ‘With every case of overnight richness comes countless pairs of greedy eyes and hands’! Several of Mr.P‘s religiously loyal well wishers over the last few decades have now turned up with the 22 Billion Dollar question –Why does God need Gold?

Mr.P has been looked after by a family of kings, who lost their power to the invading British traders who later went on to rule the entire country for centuries. In spite of losing their own base, they continued to support Mr.P and even managed his finance. In fact the treasure that makes Mr.P suddenly rich and famous is nothing but a savings-cum-insurance plan that one of the kings had purchased in the name of Mr.P years ago, and was held back from being recorded in the annals of the family accounts.

The folklore of invading Persians – Mahnud of Ghazni and Muhmad of Ghor were popular even down south in the kingdoms of Travancore, and it could probably be for the need to protect Mr.P from such plunderers that the wise king decided to keep his investment a secret. But today Mr.P is in a much bigger trouble. The plunderers are not coming on horsebacks from distant lands of Persia or China, but simply walking across the street to attack him! This time around it is not an individual’s conquest but that of a legion of money and power hungry, influential people. The very kings who handled smaller fortunes belonging to Mr.P are now being questioned for staking claim to Mr.P’s newfound treasure. Talking in the Panchatantra style, ‘Of course there is wisdom in the saying- With fortunes come plunderers!’

But let me look at it this way. On one side we have our very own elected mob that creates a pandemonium in our sacred sanctum of democracy, misappropriates the tax payer’s money, abuses national treasures to build their own and produces (and reproduces) scams after scams. Also taking into consideration the fact that our country that is today in shambles of poverty and corruption, was prosperous and happy during its pre-colonial period of regional monarchy to the point of being called a ‘golden bird’; why not give it another shot?

Bring back the royals and let them take over from these scamsters. And this time, I don’t mind being ‘A Raja’!

At Gunpoint

First appeared in 21Fools e-magazine.

This article is not to be viewed as a negative criticism of the great efforts of our social workers who have forever brought people’s problems to the notice of the rulers. However, it aims at highlighting the importance of not viewing national politics as a taboo left to perish in the hands of a few corrupt people. The country needs smart and intelligent youth with sufficient life knowledge behind them to take a plunge into national politics now more than ever! As a nation of youngsters, it is also our duty to now give our long serving leaders a break to retire and spend some peaceful years relishing the fruits of their years of hard work. It is time for a more focussed next generation India that can take on today’s superpowers.


“You know that 64 year old industrialist Bharat, the famous man who was born on 15 August 1947? Someone’s kidnapped his wife and is holding her at gunpoint!”

Bharat is the head of a big family. His wife, their many children and grandchildren, and several other relatives- close and distant, and friends –all live in one large house in New Delhi. Bharat had started his business at a very young age but his risk fearing business model never earned him much returns. About twenty years ago, on the advice of one his sons, he revamped the whole business model, got into some foreign collaborations, introduced computer systems and today his company has, in its own rights, reached a point where they can dictate terms to foreign conglomerates! An unbelievable case of ‘rags to riches’ in the last four or five decades, as other players stood gazing at their development.

With large families and large fortunes come large scale intra-family feuds. Bharat was showing signs of ageing and there was a general consensus for flushing in younger blood into the company. As a result there have been widespread conspiracies brewing within the household over the last few months. But this one was a shock to everyone in the family!

Bharat never thought that one of his sons and a few ambitious grandsons would kidnap his wife, and bring his empire to standstill! “Could this have happened anywhere else?” he thought.

Bharat had registered more than half of his business in the name of his wife, and she was his pillar of strength. In his own words, “she is the reason for his existence”. They were about to bid for an international project in a couple of days that could get him and the company a global centre stage presence in matters of policy making, and this kidnapping drama had only brought everything to a grinding halt!

Bharat was down and depressed, determined to bring his better half back home by negotiating with his ‘own sons and grandsons’! By kidnapping the lady her kidnappers had brought peril to the same business that they were demanding for, and this was as stupid and futile an effort as young Kalidas’ chopping off the very branch of the tree on which he was sitting!

Needless to say that complete lack of focus on what must be a collective effort towards growth of the business can impede its progress and pull it down to the very foundation it was built upon!


This is not an aimlessly cooked up story without an ending. It is pretty much a fictionalisation of the present state of affairs in India.

India and its governance are represented by the protagonist who shares the name Bharat with it. The business he builds up is our economy and position among the other countries. The foundation of our nation undisputedly lies in our democratic set up, and it is the same thing that has been held at gun point by a few children and grandchildren who are none other than the citizens of our country.

However pure and honest their intentions are, what social crusaders like Anna Hazare and now Baba Ramdev are doing is nothing but holding the country and its government at the gunpoint of a threat. Albeit it is true that in our history we have Aurangazeb who waged wars against his father and brothers to prevent disintegration of the vast Mughal Empire so that he could be the only ruler of the dominion, and later Mahatma Gandhi who held the vast British Empire at the virtual gunpoint of a threat to go on indefinite hunger strike if they proceeded with oppressive governance.

But neither are we governed today by selfish monarchs nor are we fighting a foreign empire!

The government in New Delhi is elected by the people of India to lead the country, and reviewed for extension after every five years. WE the people of the country are solely responsible for OUR representatives WE elect to the capital. And it is only unfair if we ourselves do not let them focus on running the country. By going on mass protests and agitations, we are only pulling our country down by not allowing our ministers and bureaucrats to focus on what they must be.

Recently, Baba Ramdev created a flurry in the national capital with his threat to go on fast if action was not taken on corruption and black money. This brought some very important cabinet ministers to the New Delhi airport awaiting his arrival in his chartered aircraft, for negotiating with him to pull out of such a protest. Is this way of influencing the working of our democratically elected government with the support of a section of the population and media, the right way to go about brining a change?

It is not the intended result, but the actual impact that matters in such things. As responsible citizens of this democracy, it is required of us to ensure that we choose the right people to lead us. If we do not find any among the existing politicians of today, it becomes our duty to find ideal ones from among us and provide them the opportunity. And worse still, if there is no one else worthy of contention, plunge into the pool ourselves and promise to remain morally truthful in spite of all the eye-glittering opportunities that might come our way in the future.

Our fellow-state Pakistan is no stranger to coups that result out of dissatisfaction in the governance. We have thankfully been pro-democratic and non-violent in our approach to our problems so far, but it does not take a Rang De Basanti to jump from being a passive critic to an active participant in our own nation building process, does it?


Mobocracy against the world’s largest Democracy

“A democracy cannot be arm-twisted by a mobocracy” Well said Manish Tiwari!This is what must have been drilled into all those people, right from the beginning, who thought that anyone with a handful of followers and a sensation hungry media could make a monkey out of the elected body consisting of people who have years of experience of running the country through its various ups and downs in history.

Who is Anna Hazare? Who is Baba Ramdev? Or those people who claim to be with them like the Bhushans? Pappu Yadav is also a supporter of their mission who went on a fast in jail to display his relation with their ideals and objectives. Humbug! They are all overnight crusaders against the problem that has existed in our society for years more than many of their age.

The supporters of this so called ‘civil society representatives’ are of two kinds. One who are genuinely impacted by the social malady raised by them, and two the younger generation who have had ‘no first hand encounter’ with the corruption they are protesting against but are fairly excited at being a part of the Indian equivalent of the Middle East uprising.

The former category of supporters are assets, in the sense that they can give accounts of real life corruption incidents that can flag off the investigations against corrupt officials and organisations. The latter are a bunch of disoriented gullible victims of the new media craze who aspire to turn heroes like Wael Ghonim in Egypt, hence and otherwise a liability in the long term.Besides what can they contribute positively to the protest when their awareness of corruption is limited to the traffic policemen at the junction and to what is shown in Bollywood movies!

Anna Hazare does not have many true followers, and he is no 21st century Mahatma. One of Anna Hazare’s biggest achievements in reviving his village Ralegan Siddhi (the feat that made him popular first) is to ‘forcefully’ abandon alcohol and tobacco. How many among the Anna loyalists can claim to be totally alcohol and tobacco free? Also, Anna is no Gandhian style activist as there have been accounts of violence under his aegis in Ralegan Siddhi to ‘discipline’ the grown up people of the village and forcing them to live a life that he preached.

He is said to have justified his action of beating up alcoholics in the village thus. “Doesn’t a mother administer bitter medicines to a sick child when she knows that the medicine can cure her child? The child may not like the medicine, but the mother does it only because she cares for the child. The alcoholics were punished so that their families would not be destroyed.”How ridiculous and anti-democratic is this?

Anna’s social activism through the age old Gandhian tactic of ‘fasting unto death’ in front of a large crowd of sympathisers and thus tying the hands of the administration goes back to 2003. He used the same weapon against in 2006 for the RTI bill and once again in 2011 for the Jan Lokpal bill.

Such estranged and self-distancing attitude against the elected government in a democracy is highly unbecoming of a responsible citizen, and compelling the government to dance to one’s tunes by holding it up against an emotionally agitated mob is by far completely inappropriate way to deal with things- in particular a policy or bill which is supposed to go through a constitutional process before implementation.

The subcontinent countries have a highly inflammable socio-economic scenario that in addition to the ever growing population can be a highly potential and lethal political weapon if capitalised smartly. Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have to be political puppets, for otherwise they could end up becoming causative agents of a cataclysmic uprising that might see no real outcome but an end to our stable democracy and a nation-wide political riot!

Capital punishment for corruption is both impractical and absurd, and as dangerous as the blessing given to Bhasmasur (in Hindu mythology). At one end, it could work out to be the most successful effort to reduce the country’s population as innumerable number of people would go to the gallows orphaning their families behind and at the other end of it, the punishment could become the most successful method used to settle political scores with unrelenting officials at various levels by hooking them to a corruption case! (something akin to how narcotics helps the police today). Both of these outcomes are not intended, but inevitable in case the law comes into force.

The gap between such idealistic propositions and the political reality in our country stems from the inexperience among the persons involved from facing the ground reality. Performing social work or teaching yoga is nowhere close to running a country. In both the cases, you cater to a suffering mass that craves for your help to come out of its pains and despairs. On the other hand while running a country and especially a democratic pseudo-continent like India, the greater challenge lies not in doing the right thing but in avoiding the wrong thing that could instantly charge up the crouching tigers like fellow politicians waiting for an opportunity to pounce on you. Idealism and Utopia are words that were never a part of the political dictionary in a hard core democracy like ours.

It is never about keeping everyone happy, it is about keeping the most of them as much happy and satisfied as they can be kept! It is not about making everyone stand in a queue, it is about making ‘everyone’ believe they are the first in the queue! That is how a democratic setup functions, and corruption (in a small but wide scale) is very much one of the key lubricants that ensure the smooth running of such a setup, and hence cannot be completely eradicated overnight in isolation, by a mob of agitated and spirited people taking on the elected government and its seasoned politicians.

Jai Hind!

Change Has Come To India

The people’s mandate yesterday wasn’t all that surprising but the margins had more to say than mere numbers. Like someone told on television yesterday, the voting for once was influenced by issues other than caste and other petty mundane yardsticks that have defined electoral reactions over the decades in India.

Each of the victories has a different message from the junta to the politicians, and thankfully all of them are constructive and development oriented. Let us go state by state.

1. West Bengal
The undisputed case of a historical result, overturning a 34 year old Communist rule and handing it to a lady with stronger communist values! Yes, the people of Bengal have not forgotten their Communism, but the leaders of the Communist parties have. They have voted for the political leader who stood by the poor working class in their fight against international conglomerates. The have voted for the safer custodian of true Communist values.

The result is special because it sends out a clear message to the political parties that the true power of a democracy still lies with the people, who want to change with changing times. A political outfit that cannot reinvent itself with time is obsolete and unworthy of people’s support. But the good news for the Communist party is that there is a lot of scope to change.

The average Bengali voter did not vote against the Communist for what happened in the last 2-3 years. Instead he looked around and saw how various states have emerged in the past thirty five years. He contemplated how in spite of being one of the first metro cities in the country he has had to be a passive onlooker when cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune rose to international standards of popularity and prosperity. He stared at the improvement in lifestyle of the people in most of the other Indian states and then turned back to find the same slums from Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy behind him.

At this juncture the average Bengali decided that it was time for things to change. But now what remains to be seen is how his life travels from here now that the red light has turned green!

2.Tamil Nadu
The forever underestimated population of Tamil Nadu has now shown why they would not allow that trend to continue. Elections in the state have always been a contest of freebies and bribes. The more the money and gift you offer, the more likely you are in power. But the math this time was not so simple, especially for the ruling party.

While political parties blame the anti incumbency factor for the result, the clear margin of AIADMK victory in the state indicates that the junta has come of age. Corruption and disgrace to the state is intolerable to all sections of the society- both rural as well as urban, even if the persons in question have been their ideological leaders for years together!

Also, the decades long trend of political parties trying to capitalise on the illiteracy and lack of awareness among the people from the rural areas by showing them bright prospects ad iterim in the run up to elections has backfired.

The message – the days of blind hero worship and generational loyalty to a particular political outfit are gone, and elections in Tamil Nadu like any other state will be driven by results!

3. Kerala
One of the most intellectual set of voters in the country. I believe that Kerala is one of the few places in India where a politician however old or strong is brought to his/her knees by the public at the time of elections.

A five time state minister since 1957 K.R.Gowriamma and her party’s complete wash out from the scheme of Kerala politics after yesterday’s election result is the latest example of the ruthless attitude of the people of Kerala when it comes to politics. Also notable in this context is the election of long time NRI Dr.Shashi Tharoor from the state capital constituency to the Lok Sabha in 2009, when the people did not allow regional sentiments (Dr.Tharoor is not a native of Tiruvananthapuram and has never lived in Kerala) to work against a bright and highly educated candidate with international exposure to represent them in New Delhi.

By offering the UDF an utmost wobbly government under the strict supervision of opposition leader Comrade VS, there is no way the government can even consider deviation from the people’s expectations. Also this was probably the best way people of Kerala could show their appreciation to the clean and uncorrupt Left leader VS Achuthananthan, at the same time expressing their displeasure at his fellow partymen and disgust at the intra-party issues and problems in the left front!

The message from Kerala- Checkmate UDF! One wrong move and you’re gone!

Keeping Assam to the end is analogous to saving the best part of the cake for the last bite! Assam is the perfect example of the change that summarises all the aforementioned messages.

The one and only message that goes out from here- Do your job impartially to the best of your abilities in the welfare of your people and you shall be voted back to power. No anti incumbency factor for performance oriented governance. This is how a progressive democracy works!

In conclusion, I reiterate my belief that the mandate of the assembly polls clearly indicate that change has indeed come to Indian politics. In partnership with the wave of anti corruption movement across the country and youth participation in nation building activities, we have a bright and development oriented future to look forward to! 🙂

Why should Japan wear a mask?


A brief look into the science behind tsunami and the risk involved in the Japanese tsunami and Fukushima nuclear reactors.

It was a Sunday, the day after Christmas. We were attending the lecture on fluid mechanics at one of the premiere coaching centres for entrance into the Indian Institutes of Technology in Chennai. Dr.Ananthan, a highly respected Physics teacher, speculated to have been considered for some of the highest honours in Physics in the last sixty odd years was pacing up and down the class (as he normally did) while trying to think of the best way to explain the concept in mind.

His driver, who was sitting in the car downstairs listening to the radio, ran up to our classroom completely panic stricken and announced that water in Marina beach was receding. The teacher dismissed this as some speculative news aired by careless media, and continued with the class. After a while, the driver was again at the door, this time claiming that the water was now flooding into the city! Chaotic information, and even more chaotic information dissemination. Luckily, the teacher decided to bow down to the pressure from the driver and to a few concerned parents who had seen the rising water levels on television and wanted to confirm the wellbeing of their wards.

This was my first impression about Tsunami that struck in 2004. Roads were blocked, and our persistent demand to the bus driver to take us through the road along Marina to have a prima face look at the radio jockey’s claims, were turned down. Little did I know until I came back home and saw in the television that we were talking about ferocious giant water waves more than thirty feet tall, travelling at almost 500km/h.

A tsunami wave is different from the ordinary wind generated wave in the sense that it travels at speeds as high as 800-1000km/h compared to the ordinary waves that travel at 8-100km/hr, and has a wavelength of 100-500km compared to 100-200m in ordinary waves. The wave period can vary between 10 minutes to 2 hours while that of an ordinary wave is 5 to 20 sec. This gives us a picture of the enormity of the Tsunami waves when compared to the ones we enjoy watching at the beach.

Tsunamis occur when there is a vertical displacement of the earth surface causing the water that occupied the region to turn into massive tidal waves full of energy ready to move in all directions. It is the energy that destroys cities and towns, and is depreciated by the resistance offered by the sea. The more the waves travel from the originating point (called epicentre) before striking the land, lesser is the energy content in them and hence the impact.

On March 11, 2011 at 2:36pm local time North Eastern Japan was rocked by their most powerful earthquake of the order of 8.9 on the Richter scale. By 3:40pm, water waves as high as 30ft strike on the Japanese coast washing away homes, vehicles and several other things in the process of invading the Japanese territory. But this was not to conclude thus.

Japan is low on fossil fuel reserves, and hence depends on nuclear energy for one third of their power requirements. The nuclear reactors in Fukushima have a rated capacity of 9096MWe and a fuel loading of 1100 tons U. In the wake of such a natural calamity, the impact on nuclear plant could turn things exponentially catastrophic. That is the reason why the entire world is now focussing on the possible nuclear impacts due to the Japanese tsunami more than any other aspects.

The biological impact of exposure to radiation is measured in Sieverts, abbreviated as Sv. An exposure to 500mSv, for however small a period of time, is considered very dangerous. An exposure to 20mSv is considered to be normal. However, health risks including an increased chance of cancer, mutations and deformed babies may result if radiation exposure exceeds 0.1 Sieverts. For one-time exposure of 0.5 to 0.75 Sieverts of radiation, nausea and vomiting will occur within hours, followed by hair loss.

In the long term, low exposure to radiation may cause cancer and genetic mutation while acute exposure in a short period of time can lead to skin damage, damage of the central nervous system or death, said Ngai Wai- tat, director of Hong Kong Baptist Hospital Nuclear Medicine Centre.

The Japanese officials have admitted that the radiation levels near the affected plants have been alarmingly high as 400mSv. There are multiple potential causes to a nuclear accident in Fukushima. For one, the repeated hydrogen and steam explosions in the plants would expose the nuclear core material resulting in massive penetration of radioactive elements in the vicinity, that could be very dangerous.

A nuclear reactor meltdown is a severe accident that results in the core of the nuclear reactor being damaged and exposed due to overheating. There can be a partial or complete collapse of the core, resulting in a large scale exposure to nuclear fuels with long half lives. Based on an improbable assumption that the nuclear fuel assemblies and control rods still retain their integrity in the Fukushima reactors, cooling with sea water mixed with boron as neutron absorber would help further damage.

Latest media reports claim that all six reactors at the Fukushima complex have problems — be it blown-out roofs, potentially cracked containment structures, exposed fuel rods or just the risk of explosion that has been great enough to force emergency measures, making it a bigger threat than the accident at Three Mile Island, but less impactful than the one at Chernobyl. The latest update as I wind up this article is that white smoke, in all likelihood steam, is seen coming out from the walls of the nuclear plant.

The radiation level reported in regions of human inhabitation is well below the dangerous levels mentioned above, and hence there is still hope of avoiding a massive nuclear tragedy. On a positive note, the Japanese are known to fight hard against nuclear attacks bouncing up to become one of the biggest economies in the world post World War II and hope they are able to redo the magic after this one as well.

For further reading: Resources

Open Letter to Vodafone Customer Care

Dear Vodafone Customer Carers,

I must tell you that after one entire day gone between us to sort out the issue with my Blackberry connection, I have decided to concede defeat. YOU ARE HOPELESS!

It is high time that you adapt to some ‘Faster, Smarter, Better’ customer service as well, because otherwise the poor zoozoos will starve to death as we customers back out one by one. Here is what happened with me. Thought you might be interested.

I have
1. Dialled your customer service numbers more than fifteen times today in the last ten hours.
2. Heard “I am very sorry for the inconvenience, I will surely help you” almost ten times from random customer executives (some of them who did not have the slightest clue as to why I had called in!)
3. Waited for at least one of your associate in the BB team to turn up, for more than two hours!
4. Described the problem to five of your associates, who promised me action within 1 hour, 2 hours and 4 hours.

But at the end of all this, things have not gotten any better at my end!!!

And to top it all, the IVRS now religiously tells me “Sorry, the service is unavailable now!”. This in spite of my confirming with the concerned personnel that the service will be available beyond office working hours.

I am ready to share complete details of the problem and steps taken if you are interested, and assure me that you would get my phone back in service.

And I must addl here that this inaction is highly disappointing and has affected my day to day business. This is not the only time I have experienced negligient response from your customer care team.