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Archive for November, 2005

Travelling, again

with 7 comments

And this time, I am going up, north, to the hills. Almost 2700 Kms from here, one way, on rail. Will write more.

And, I have just posted 2 new entries, below.

Written by aditya kumar

November 25th, 2005 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Personal,Travel

Too much of Google?

with 4 comments

Last year we got gmail from Google. Wonderful concept of never being able to delete any of your email, ever. And the space keeps on increasing.

This year, of course, we got the Instant Messenger, Google Talk. No clumsy graphics, neat interface, ability to talk with anyone on the list by push of a button.

Google’s release of “Talk” was not expected by many. At least, not expected this early. So, in that sense, Google not only surprised the net community but also it’s competition.

It does not take much to see where this is all going. Google has unvealed it’s aggressive stance and they aim to take over the internet (and also the desktop) in more aspects than one.

Google’s strength, apart from this fact that they deliver software products that are easier to use by a typical PC user, lies in this fact that it is probably one of the most respected organizations in the market and certainly, the most respected software company, worldwide. All in all, People trust Google. I trust Google and odds are, that you too, do that.

But as I am habituated to take a skeptical stance on things like these, I can’t help but wonder how much does Google know about me.

Probably, a lot.

Besides the search engine, Gmail, Orkut, Blogspot, Talk and Desktop are all brands of Google. Gmail is the email service in which you never need to delete any email, Orkut is where you find people and communities, you can make like-minded friends, Blogspot is where you maintain your weblog, so you write about things that interest you (and do not interest you, for that matter), with “Talk” you can talk, literally, with your friends or message them the plain-old way and “Desktop” is the application you can use to speed up your searches on your PC. And that does not need an internet connection to work.

Add all this up, and Google knows what you talk about in your email (Gmail), your interests, your marital status, your age, the kind of people you like to be with (Orkut), your stands on issues, what you write (and what you read) while you blog (Blogspot), your friends you speak to on the messenger (Talk) and even the contents of the files on the Hard disk(s) of your computer (Desktop). And of course, your Google searches shall reveal if you are going to travel soon or not. By analysing the “googling” habits of people like me, it shall also reveal what computer language(s) do I work with.

What I wish to further focus on is the new Google project, called Google Web Accelerator. What does this do? Once you install this application on your desktop, It loads web pages faster than before, saving your time.

How does it do it? It stores copies of “frequently accessed pages” on it’s servers. Whenever you request a website on your browser (and you have Google Web Accelerator running), your request is sent to one of the Google’s servers which provides your browser with the latest copy of the website page that you wish to access. So in reality, your browser never actually accesses the website you requested. Only in the case when the website you requested is not there with Google’s server, will your browser actually retrieve the page from the intended website.

In essence, since all the web page requests coming from your browser go through Google Servers, Google shall not only know about all the websites you are accessing from your computer, you also run the risk of letting Google have the information that you fill in those forms over the internet, as in Google’s words, some sites “may” send the (form) information through Google. More of this, in Google’s own words, here. Remember, the forms that you fill on the internet usually carry personal information.

This concerns me.

This is alarming because never before has any internet based company offered so many services through a single account to the internet user. MSN and Yahoo!, the two companies who spiced up the internet wars in the late 90s and a good part of the post Y2k scenario until Google came are now reduced to mere followers. Clearly, Google has taken the lead.

Google’s biggest asset is the trust and goodwill it has with the internet community. I hope they never mess up that. And the “Google Show” is still on.

Meanwhile, think about what I said.

Written by aditya kumar

November 25th, 2005 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Technology

Grieve for the whistleblowers

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In the middle of the Bihar election results, one news initially went without notice.

Manjunath, a manager with the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), had ordered the closure of a petrol pump in Lakhimpur Kheri (State of Uttar Pradesh) sometime back. He was murdered.

The petrol dealers in the area never followed the norms. They sold adulterated fuel. Manjunath had the authority for closing these pumps down. Eventually he ordered the closure of three petrol pumps in the area.

Manjunath had informed his father about the area he was posted in. It was unsafe, full of gangs and a mafia order was in place. He told that he did not get “proper official support”. His father asked him to let some things “go by”. Manjunath resisted, insisting that he wanted to change things, this was his challenge.

As a student, Manju financed his own education. Perhaps, that goes on to say the kind of person he was.

As a graduage of IIML (Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow), Manjunath had the choice of leaving the job and getting himself something else, much safer and more attractive. It is the drive that fuels the majority of young professionals. But he chose not to. He wanted to change the system, giving all he can to his first job.

And this is what the system gave him.

Satyendra Dubey and now Manjunath. Anyone who knows our system would agree that what Manjunath and Dubey found out, was just the tip of the iceberg.

Is this what our political and administrative system gives to whistleblowers? Can the Government offer anything more than the condolences?


Friends of Manjunath have created a blog in his memory, here (I request you to please sign the online Petition in this regard, to the Prime Minister of The Republic of India, link to which is given on the blog) [Link via Sonia Faleiro]

Manjunath’s father, talks to the Indian Express, here.

Sonia Faleiro’s post here

Gaurav Sabnis, Manjunath’s junior at IIML, writes a moving post here.

Written by aditya kumar

November 25th, 2005 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Society

On Indian Writing

without comments

Nilanjana Roy points out in her article, what I have always believed- that, Rushdie, Seth, Ghosh and Mistry have been the best that Contemporary Indian Writing has had to offer. Add to it, Authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and Suketu Mehta now having come of age, it is this group of writers, that will continue to provide the best in Indian writing for the next few decades.

Roy’s excellent article also mentions the (almost ironical) fact that most of the Indian writers have set up base outside India and continue to spend a good part of a year away from home. This same point has also been mentioned by Laxman Rao, who featured in Guardian’s ( article.

Now that I have mentioned Laxman Rao, you may wonder who he is since the name does not seem to belong in literary circles. Laxman Rao is a Novelist who writes in Hindi. In the last 20 years, he has written about “18 novels, plays and political essays”, all in Hindi.

Laxman Rao does not stay outside India. He stays in New Delhi. He sells tea, on a road side tea stall, somewhere in south Delhi.

Rao asserts that to write about India, one has to stay here, in this country and write about the “India” every Indian knows. The words of Indian Authors who stay in foreign lands do not reflect the ground reality here. Read about it here. (Link from Indianwriting)

But then again, for our Authors to stay here, an encouraging market needs to exist. A good environment for literature, a book release and the world gives the Author the notice s/he deserves.

Also required is a “literary sense” existing within the masses. Of course, it does not live in our society. Instances of its absence were evident in the quality of questions asked by journalists while their mobile phones sang amidst Vikram Seth reading “Two Lives”.

Indian Literature is not (yet) in a state where we would ideally like it to be; but at least it hasn’t got any worse. In fact, I would assert that in the last 15 years or so, the overall state of Indian Writing has only improved. Some credit for it should go to Arundhati Roy’s Booker prize winning work, The God of Small Things and the Pulitzer prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. Of course, shortlisting of Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey (1991) and A Fine Balance(1996), for the Booker Prize, within a span of 5 years, has only helped the cause of Indian Literature.

Things are not too good, agreed, but they are not too bad either.

Written by aditya kumar

November 18th, 2005 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Society,Writing

“Measure for Measure” at Rangashankara

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I wish and I hope that I am able to watch this at Rangashankara sometime in the next couple of days. More information, here.

Update: [17 November 2005, 1910 Hrs] All tickets sold out :-(

Written by aditya kumar

November 16th, 2005 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Bangalore,Personal

This new breed of writers

with 6 comments

I remember Uma once wrote a post about the worst books ever written (worse still, published!) and Anurag Mathur’s “The Inscrutable Americans” fitted the bill for quite a few, including yours truly. Now, it would be almost ridiculous to compare the likes of Mathur to modern Indian literary giants like Rohinton Mistry, Amitav Ghosh and Jhumpa Lahiri but the fact is that Mathur’s story telling was, in the end, good for the financial health of his publisher. That he writes prose which is in no way exquisite and miles away from being called “good literature” is a different matter altogether.

Such is also the case with Chetan Bhagat, author of “Five Point Someone”, who has “One night at the Call Center” as his latest offering. I feel here is a new breed of writers emerging and they are quite content not being in the same class as contemporary English writers. Their prose is not poetic and surely you can keep the dictionary at bay. In fact, at times, their writing style is almost swaggering and often full of dark humor. They strive by making the reader flip pages by exploiting the plot, the storyline, rather than employing an effective use of the prose. (A good example would be Dan Brown, who, with his ordinary writing in the highly overrated “Da Vinci Code”, must have smiled all the way to the bank while we were left chasing the holy grill.. or was that the grail? You may not like what I say, but I thought that book was a pure waste of time.) Comparing Anurag Mathur’s (or for that matter, Bhagat’s) prose to Rushdie’s or Jhumpa Lahiri’s would be comparing a David Dhawan movie to Meera Nair’s. Almost a crime.

It’s an altogether different style of story-telling. For starters, books like these are often read in one go. People who have not read a book in ages complete it in a matter of hours. Read alright but read by whom? Teenagers, young adults, in fact just about everyone. From a literary sense, these is nothing to gain from books like these. Nightmare for readers who cherish the flawless prose of authors like Salman Rushdie, Rohin Mistry. In fact, Bhagat’s target audience is not that class of readers. But the most startling fact about these kind of books is that in a society where reading is a dying culture, they are like a shot in the arm. That is the only reason why I am not cynically critical about authors like Bhagat and Mathur. (Or am I?)

Written by aditya kumar

November 14th, 2005 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Society,Writing

The world that ceased to exist

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The rain kept on pouring on the bus, in all forms. There were brief periods when the breeze had some private moments with the bus, but overall, the rain intruded most of the time. I could see the windshield and have the driver’s view on some occasions. The wipers kept working overtime.

The view on the Driver’s rear view mirror often revealed the grinning face of our driver. The smile showcasing the bright white set of teeth in the darkness. The smile that also managed to hold a lit bidi that was an important accessory with this man who had already driven us close to 300 kilometers. The same smile that probably had a few hundred stories behind it. Stories that were an important aspect of his life (and probably someone else’s life too), for they fuelled the fire in him to drive 17 hours a day.

I chose to turn my face towards the window. Droplets of water decorated the brown glass pane on my right. The city cars zoomed past, leaving behind a tail of colorful lights, owing to which, the droplets of water, for a moment or two, acquired the effect of hundred mini-rainbows.

And when not mini-rainbows, they were the stars. Small, silvery, glittering and existing within my hand’s reach. I was so much in my own little world. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Isn’t that what you want?

But then the bus stopped, and the imagery acquired a different shape. A beggar child, in the bare minimum of clothes, both hands on the window of a car. His workplace, this muddy, traffic congested road. His plea, in his eyes. His desperations, too many to count. His thoughts, he could not afford.

His hands on the window’s glass were taken to be intrusions into another world. His gestures were met with hatred. On an open window, the glass made way up, securing the world of someone inside. Nothing, but a pure matter of convenience.

If I could make eye contact with the child, all I had to offer was another pair of cold eyes.

The difference between his world and mine? A Glass Pane.

Then I noticed, it was only the breeze now — the rain had gone and so were the droplets. My world looked so bleak without those stars.

My little world now ceased to exist.

PS: Thank you, Mr.Nair, for your suggestions on this.

Written by aditya kumar

November 11th, 2005 at 12:57 am