Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meeting Aimee Mullins - At TED

Many are aware of this annual meeting called TED where gifted people are invited to share their perspective on the things they do.  TED used to be, and still is, a "By Invitation Only" meeting.  But thanks to modern technology and the ability to share videos economically, TED has made several of their videos available to public for free. 

What a treat this is!  You can mosy over to http://www.ted.com/ and check out their collection of videos.  Its an amazing collection.  Here is a sample. 

Aimee Mullins is a double amputee below the knee and one of the fastest runners in the world.  In this video Aimee share her experiences as a double amputee.  Its a truly inspiring story.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In the name of the Lord - violence against women

Almost on cue, the right wing Hindu thugs operating under the name of Sri Ram Sena "Army of Lord Ram" has attacked a group of Indian women in the city of Mangalore. The attack was particularly ironical in that the men who were chasing and physically hitting the women were doing it in the name of the Hindu God who is often held up as a model of human behavior!

But such is the nature of religious bigotry. Whether it is the Hindu fanatics of the Army of Ram or Muslim fanatics of the Army of Muhammad (Jaiesh-e-muhammad), religious bigots are the latest threat to secularism and woman's rights in India. The outrage against Sri Ram Sena has been wide spread, but the response of the political class has been deplorable. BJP, which is the fountain head of such religious bigotry, has not condemned the violence - instead opting for the excuse of sending some one to Mangalore to investigate the issue. Congress' response has been tepid too, while other politicians have been mumbling excuses. Its about time politicians of all ilk condemn the attack strongly and support legal action against these bigots.

India needs to do more than just pay lip service to the rights of women. Indian women have as much right to visit any coffee shop, a pub, or any other legal establishment and enjoy the legal offerings as any other Indian. The Police and judicial establishment needs to act quickly and make an example out of the perpetrators of these attacks so that such violence never occurs again. India needs to send a strong message to the world that it protects its women as much as it cherishes its cultural traditions. Only then will India be able to claim its rightful place as a becon of democracy and justice in the region.

Women of India also have a responsibility to act against this incidence. Instead of cowering and hiding away, Indian women need to stand together and send a message to the political class that come election time all politicians will be judged against their response to this act of violence against women. We must prevent the "talibanization" of Indian culture at any cost - whether the threat comes from Hindu fanatics or Muslim fanatics.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Management By Mythology - Ha!

If only we could bottle myths and sell them... well some one is doing it already!! And making Money at it!! Could it get more ridiculous?
"I am a pattern-finder. The mythologies are stars -- I point out the constellation," he said. "The world of business and the world of our mythological tales are not too different."

Really?? Thank you Mr. Devdutt Patnaik, for enlightening us. Now I can look up Ramayan and Mahabharat for answers to my business problems.

This is no different from the Mullahs suggesting Koran or an evangelist suggesting turning to "Jesus, CEO" for all the answers. Religious books and myths were created to sell stories to the gullible, the uneducated and susceptible. Mr. Patnaik must think that we are still as "anpadh" as the citizenry of the past. Soon, instead of Indian Institute of Management, Mr Patnaik will have us send our children to Indian Institute of Mythology to learn business skills.

India Inc looking for an Indian Business Guru, would do good to look up CK Prahlad or Sumantra Goushal or Ram Charan and forget Mr. Patnaik, for the answers to today's business problems lies not in ancient myths but in rigorous and disciplined scientific analysis of business problems.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hindus and Muslims Earn Approx Same in India

There is a myth perpetrated in India that the Muslim brethren are poorer than the Hindu brethren. It makes a lot of sense to propagate this myth for political purposes, so invariably you will hear this being brought up in the media. However, a recent (by recent I mean 2007) survey by National Council of Economic Research, this myth is blown out of water.
Truth be told, at the national level, Hindus and Muslims are closer than you thought as far as average household income, expenditure, savings and even ownership of select consumer goods go.
The report further states that
Hindus and Muslims, at a national level, run neck-and-neck on average annual household income (AHI) of Rs 61, 423 and Rs 58,420, respectively. Or, to put it differently, an average Hindu household has an income of Rs 168 per day, while an average Muslim household earns Rs 160 a day. In rural India, an average Hindu AHI is Rs 49,077 with Muslim close behind with AHI of Rs 47,805. On income parameters, at least, Hindus and Muslims are, indeed, bhai-bhai.
This is important because Pakistani detractors and jihadists often claim that Indian muslims are treated poorly by the largely Hindu society.

Read more here

On This Republic Day, Thinking Of Preserving Values of Liberty, Justice and Equality enshrined in Indian Constitution

Indian Republic Day Celebrations | Credit: B. Mathur


A few moments from now, India will begin celebrations commemorating the adoption of the Indian constitution 59 years ago. Already it is clear that the event will be a somber one. As if Mumbai attacks were not sufficient, the enemies of democracy are once again rearing their ugly head. News reports indicate that last night a few attackers were killed in a fire fight with the police on the road to Delhi. Its being said that the attackers are from Pakistan. But there is little value in pointing this out - Pakistan is likely to deny it as it has always done - and mutual finger pointing will begin.

Indian Republic Day Celebrations | Credit: G. Osan


There is however little benefit in pointing fingers at Pakistan. News from Pakistan indicates that Pakistan is itself roiling in a spasm of militant violence which it is unable to control. The Swat valley, which is known for its natural beauty and cultural links to Buddhism and is called the Switzerland of Pakistan, has fallen to Taleban. Inspite of (or perhaps because of) a 12,000 to 14,000 strong contigent of Army in the region, the 2000 odd fighters of Taleban are walking about with impunity, terrorizing the local populace through regular beheadings and mutilations, in complete disregard of Pakistani law. Already in the name of Islam 169 schools have been bombed and razed to ground by the Taleban and threats have been issued against girls being sent to the schools. A website on Swat Valley that describes the culture and beauty of the valley urging tourists to visit leaves one wondering, what ever happened? No doubt the liberal elements of Pakistan are looking at this with increasing horror.

Indian Republic Day Celebrations | Credit: G. Osan


As India celebrates the Republic day, Indians must be thinking about the threats to the values of justice, equality and liberty enshrined in the Indian constitution. The war waged by Taleban is a cultural war which requires collective effort to fight and win. Pakistan, wittingly or unwittingly, has become a victim of its own foolhardy experiment to use the religious elements to further political goals. The Indians must view all that is happening in Swat valley with dismay. Afterall Swat valley is only 600 kms away from New Delhi, but there is not much India can do about this!

Indian Republic Day Celebrations | Credit: M. Swarup


On the other hand, India can certainly affect change within its borders to neutralize the threat from Taleban. India, which has second largest population of Muslims in the world, needs its Muslim population to reject the backward looking ideology of Taleban. This can only be done by actively enlisting the help of Indian Muslims - including the Muslim clergy - to reject the Taleban ideology. Indian muslims are far more educated and far more integrated into the secular Indian society and are not as likely to fall prey to the Taleban ideology as the uneducated and impoverished youth of Pakistan. However, as has been seen recently, some of the young Indian muslims have been swayed by this deadly ideology on emotional grounds. India must redouble efforts to prevent the Indian muslim youth from falling into the clutches of these demagogs.

The values of Equality, Justice and Liberty as enshrined in the Indian constitution for all Indians benefit, regardless of caste creed or religion. Indian Republic is not a perfect republic and there is much work to be done to ensure that all Indians get to enjoy these values equally. On this Republic day, all Indians must think - how can we join hands with the Indian muslims to prevent the Taleban and its cohorts from sowing the seeds of destruction within India. And the Indian muslims must also think, how can they join hands with other Indians to prevent the Indian state and constitution from becoming a victim to the Taleban ideology.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Trip To Isla Mujeres



Above a photo of a window I took in Isla Mujeres, Cancun. The image was modified to give it sepia tone, which some how brings out the "mexican" nature of the window.

I doubt if there is a soul in United States that has not heard of Cancun. Cancun is the playground of US, especially the US young who tend to flock to Cancun during Spring Break. Then, the beaches are filled with 18 to 22 year olds, who go about enjoying the beaches giving little thought to the real Cancun. For the only Cancun known to most Americans, is the strip of land that surrounds Laguna Nichupe and has some of the most beautiful beaches. This strip is nothing but a small section of paradise created in the image of American luxury for the tourists and does not at all give on the indication of the real life Cancunians live beyond this strip of Americanized land.

The town of Cancun is only 20 minutes away from the "strip", and has a pier where one can take boats to the island of "Isla Mujeres". Isla Mujeres used to be a tiny fishing village not too long ago, but has not fallen prey to commercialization and can be regarded as nothing more than a tourist trap. For all is commercialization though, Isla Mujreres has some "authentic Mexican" shops and eateries, and I would highly recommend a trip. At the very least its a pleasant boat ride away from the hustle bustle of the "Strip" life.


View Larger Map

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Understanding Today's Social Networks

A PhD student Danah Michele Boyd has decided to make her PhD dissertation public. Makes for an interesting reading on the topic of Teenagers and their interaction on social networks like MySpace and Facebook. Download it for free here

TakenOutOfContext.pdf

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jiya Arrives!

There is something miraculous about birth of a baby. On January 16th, just such a miracle occurred when Jiya came into our lives. Tiny Jiya, weighing all of 4.4 lbs, came into this world 3 weeks early and immediately proceeded to raise quite a ruckus. Crying at the top of her lungs, Jiya declared to the world "I may be tiny, but I have giant ambitions!!"

From Birth of Jiya | Photo: Sunil Joshi


Mom Madhu, on the other hand, was quite exhausted. She had requested an epidural, but Jiya wasn't willing to wait for Dr. Williams to show up. So pain or no pain, Madhu had to bring Jiya into this world! Fortunately, the delivery was a swift affair - we reached the hospital at 3.30 AM, and Jiya arrived at 5 AM.

From Birth of Jiya | Photo: Sunil Joshi


Badi sister Jaya is THRILLED!! Jaya just does not want to leave Jiya alone! Last night I some how managed to convince her to return home to sleep. But tonight Jaya is not going any where. She wants to be in the hospital with Jiya.

From Birth of Jiya | Photo: Sunil Joshi


Jiya came three weeks early, and as a result, is quite tiny. Yet she received a APGAR score of 9, which is quite a credit to this fighter. Still, Dr. Sheth, Jiya's personal pediatrician, wishes to limit Jiya's contact with outside world until Jiya's weight gets to "normal". So, the planned vacation - gone, planned parties - finito, inviting folks to show off Jiya - well that'll just have to wait a few more weeks!

From Birth of Jiya | Photo: Sunil Joshi


Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining. I knew that with three women in the house I would have to gradually surrender control over my life. But Jiya, she is already controlling my life!

From Birth of Jiya | Photo: Sunil Joshi

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kite Flying on Sankranti Day

I am posting an article by my wife Madhu that she wrote on her weblog Chaiwallah, on Jaya Teas website jayateas.com. Sankranti or Uttarayan is a great cultural aspect of India, and was celebrated just yesterday on 14th January.

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Kite Flying on Sankranti Day.
By Dr. Madhulika Pareek-Joshi

My sister Anuradha Flying Kite in Ahmedabad | Photo Credit: Bhadresh Shah |


This morning my mother, who is staying with us for a few months, called out from the kitchen, "Wake up Madhu, today is Sankranti".

Just the word "Sankranti" brought back memories of my childhood, flying kites. No, it wasn't kite flying really, it was more like kite fighting!

Kite Fighting or kite running as it is popularly called, is a sport that is enjoyed all over India, but especially so in Ahmedabad where I was born and raised. And Sankranti, which is also called Uttarayan, is a special day when the sky of the city is covered with colorful kites all over.

When I was growing up, me and my sister used to look forward to this day. We would plan for this day many days in advance. One special ritual was the ritual of making "manja". Manja is the string on which one flies the kite. Typically, manja is a simple thread, but for kite fighting, we prepared a special type of manja, one which could cut the rival's string bringing the kite down.

My uncle taught me to make a mean "manja". Recipe is simple, really. All you do is grind up some glass - soda bottle glass is specially preferred - and mix it with cooked wheat flour paste. My job used to be to collect shards of Thumbsup and Limca glass bottles, and my uncle would put them into a mortar and hammer them into fine powder.

Once the paste was cooked up, we would take the ordinary thread, string it between trees, and start applying the wheat flour slurry. When the manja was dry, (it would become rather hard) it had to be rolled onto a spindle, to be taken out on Sankranti day.

Nephew Aman flying a kite | Photo Credit: Bhadresh Shah |


The Kite fighting rivalries in Ahmedabad are legendary. I remember how we used to be puffed up with pride when our kite would "kill" a rival's kite!! It was almost as if we were some warriors fighting a war! Of course with that "mean" manja, we were prohibited from flying the kite for the risk of cutting our fingers - we could only watch. But once the big battles were over, us kids would fly the kites on normal strings. The kites are small and easy to manuever - like little dancers in the sky, dancing on guidance of my fingers!

I tried to explain all this to my six year old daughter Jaya, but Jaya has grown up in the US and didn't really understand what I was saying. The only kites she knows are the huge behemoth fabric kites that she gets to fly when we go to Belmar beach in summer. That kite is too hard for a small child to enjoy. To really enjoy kite flying, one has to be in Ahmedabad or Jaipur or Delhi on Sankranti Day.

Ps. My brother-in-law sent us some pictures of kite flying which I am attaching here.

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Author: Dr. Madhulika Pareek-Joshi
Authors website: http://www.jayateas.com
About the author: Dr. Madhulika Pareek-Joshi is the President of Jaya Teas, LLC. Dr. Pareek grew up in India in a family steeped in tea industry and tea lore. Many of Dr. Pareek’s uncles and cousins are involved in the Indian tea industry and so, although a medical doctor by profession, Dr. Pareek decided to use her family connections for the benefit of US tea customer, by starting a tea company . Jaya Teas, which specialises in teas from India, has been open for business since 2004. Dr. Pareek invites readers to contribute their comments on her blog Chaiwalah, which can be found at http://www.jayateas.com/blog/
You are free to replicate this article else where, but please, leave this box intact! We appreciate the back links!
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Silent Pier

From Cancun, Mexico | Photo credit: Sunil Joshi |

Celebrating Madhu's Baby shower for Jiya

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kamran Shafi takes the ISI - DG to task for his comments

You should read this and believe that not every one in Pakistan thinks and acts like the crazed militants. There is a large group of ordinary, educated Pakistanis who are sick and tired of being unable to live ordinary lives. Kamran Shafi takes the power brokers to task for making irresponsible statements and defending the undefendable actions of the militants.

Quoting Der Speigel, where ISI DG Pasha's comment that Taliban be allowed the "freedom of speech" to spout their message of militancy raised old suspicion that the ISI is playing a double game, Shafi responds like this...

As it should arouse suspicion, because the Taliban don’t only say what they ‘please’; they also behead and shoot as they ‘please’, and cut off other people’s ears as they ‘please’. Just as they cut off the ears of five tribal elders belonging to a peace committee in Khar the other day.

It is hardly a matter of their ‘freedom of opinion’, because their freedom of opinion extends to blowing up schools, in recent weeks not only girls schools but ALL schools in Swat. And effectively taking over completely, that once peaceful and very lovely place. Ask the poor Swatis.

The Taliban’s ‘freedom of opinion’ extends to kidnapping senior and well-guarded government officials such as on Jan 11, when they took the Additional Political Agent of South Waziristan in broad daylight. We must note that whilst he was protected by ‘more than 20 heavily-armed’ guards, just five masked men spirited him away. What in God’s name is going on? Chills you to the bone does it not, this interview by the head of Pakistan’s Mother of All Agencies?
It is people like Kamran Shafi, Ahmad Rashid and other brave journalists who will help us pull Pakistan out of this morass. There is so much potential economically, culturally, socially, in the entire South Asia, its a tragedy that all of that has been held hostage by political and religious issues.

To unlock this potential, India and Pakistan need to act together and uproot this cancer of religio-terrorism, lets call it religerrorism. If not done now, both Pakistani and Indian society will become victims to religerrorism.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Indian Army Practicing For Republic Day Parade



Indian Republic Day will be celebrated on 26th January

Power Struggle in Pakistan

So we finally have the admission, that Ajmal Kasab, one of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai is indeed from Pakistan. And the man who shared this admission with the world, Pakistan's National Security Advisor (NSA) Mahmud Ali Durrani, paid dearly for his honesty. He was fired forthwith by Prime minister Gilani!

If there was a case of being in denial, none is clearer. For a country on the verge of implosion, it is astounding that Pakistan should still behave as though pronouncements of innocence will clear them of their responsibility. Durrani's firing is just the freshest example of the ongoing struggle within Pakistan about how to deal with India after Mumbai attacks.

Fortunately, there are a few in Pakistan who would like to move the country off its current disastrous course becoming an international pariah. On the other hand are the hard liners who view that Pakistan state's raison d'ĂȘtre is to stand against India - at any cost, including self destruction. My hope was that President Zardari, who supposedly belongs to the former group, would be able to steer the country off the course of self destrucion. But with Durrani gone Zardari is now engaged in a power struggle with the old military establishment now represented by Prime minister Gilani and Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani.

The stakes in this power struggle are very high. If Pakistan continues to deny complicity of its nationals in the Mumbai attacks, it would be a signal to the world that Pakistan is not serious about tackling the fundamentalist problem it helped create. On the other hand if Pakistan choses to take action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks on grounds of international security, it will receive support from the International community in the form of military and economic support to rebuild its society.

While all this is going on, the people of Pakistan are the looser.

If Pakistan continues on its current course, there is little hope of rescuing Pakistani economy that is in shambles. But if Pakistan choose the right course, the world including US and India, would help Pakistan put its economy back on track, there by giving hope to millions and driving support away from the nefarious religious elements.

Lets hope that Pakistani leaders take the right decision.