Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Mahatma's own country... (Part II)

I couldn't properly sleep the whole night. The backache kept coming back. On that fateful evening in Lahore when we listened to my heart, the British police was rushed in, to quiet down the peaceful revolt in our college. We were beaten by laathis till they broke but none of us raised our hands on them. The police left after they were exhausted but I couldn't properly sleep from that night.

I stretched my back and sat on my computer again recollecting my thoughts. The sun shining through the window reminded me of one hot day that changed the fate of a nation...

It was June 3rd 1947. I was standing outside the building where a fate of a nation was being decided. An eager Nehru, a stubborn Jinnah and the mediator Mountbatten, among others were deciding if a nation and its people should be divided. The heat outside was unbearable but it was the anticipation that was making it worse.

I disagreed with Bapu on an ideological basis but one thing we both agreed was that India should not be divided under any cost. Bapu had tried his best. He even tried talking out Nehru. He told him that India has already spent more than 200 years British rule, so how does it matter if we wait 2-3 more years to sort everything out. Nehru always gave due consideration to Bapu but he was adamant about India getting Independence as soon as possible. I don't think he thought this way only to get power because at that point we Indians didn't knew what power was. Bapu's desperation was rising with every passing day and at one point he even suggested to Nehru that let us make Jinnah the Prime Minister of new nation and give all the top cabinet positions to Muslim leaders, if that prevents partition. I could understand Bapu's desperation about the nation he always dreamed of but at that point Nehru knew that we need our Independence sooner rather than later, lest Bapu is able to convince others to make Jinnah the Prime Minister of free India. It was then he called for the final meeting on June 3rd.

The news had leaked out of the room, Mountbatten had told Jinnah that he can have his Pakistan. A stroke of pen had decided the fate of millions of people. I could see it unraveling before my own eyes. Muslims standing with us suddenly were watching us with suspicious eyes. No body knew what to say to each other. The silence of the place was deafening. It was a silence that usually comes before a storm.

My thoughts went for the man who we all lovingly called, Bapu. He would be a broken man tonight. For the major part of his life he fought for a nation, a nation without caste system, a nation without religious differences, a nation who would celebrate their independence together. All he got was a divided nation, two nation full of hatred and two nations celebrating their independence without acknowledging each other. We all have differences with our parents and may not agree with them on a lot of issues but still nobody likes to see their father broken. Nehru who lovingly gave Mohandas Gandhi the name, Bapu, had just signed a deal that shattered his Bapu.

As I think about that day, tears still swell up in my eyes. I didn't gave my back for a divided nation. Bhagat Singh didn't die to get separated from Ashfaqulla Khan. Not many people know this but it was neither Nehru nor Jinnah who partitioned India, it was a lack of one piece of information, that divided India. As Mountbatten later wrote, if only he had known that Jinnah had cancer, he would have not divided the nation. Jinnah died after one year of Pakistan's independence, making the nation orphan, as President Musharaf noted in his recent memoirs.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I still dream, what if...

(To be continued)

Chilly Paneer (Contributed by: Faith) ... a new recipe up @ sanjha chulha

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mahatma's own country - A Story by Ricky Singh

This story is dedicated to my dearest Mom. Happy Birthday Ma!!

It is a beautiful sunny winter morning. The kind of morning where you want to take a book that transports you to the city you never been but always wanted to go, that talks about the love you wished you had in your life, that talks about the ending that leaves some questions unanswered. I took a deep breath, switched on my computer and opened a new word document. My mind shifted from a beautiful sunny morning in Victoria to a beautiful sunny morning in Lahore...

"Bhagat Singh ZINDABAD"
"Rajguru ZINDABAD"
"Sukhdev ZINDABAD"

The narrow alleys of Lahore were filled with people from all walks of lives. The name of Bhagat Singh was on everyone's lips. The news had spread rapidly that Bhagat Singh was hanged a day before the decided time. The anger was brewing in the streets all over India.

I was the President of Student's Union at National College, Lahore, the same college where Bhagat Singh studied the lives of revolutionaries of Ireland, Italy and Russia. We organized a peaceful march in our beautiful College ground.

National College, Lahore

"Bhagat Singh ZINDABAD"
"Rajguru ZINDABAD"
"Sukhdev ZINDABAD"

I knew that students were getting restless. Bhagat Singh's popularity had risen manifold after his arrest and the arrogance of Britishers to hang someone before his judgment day had angered the students. The situation had the possibility to go out of hand. It seemed like Bhagat Singh's idea of waking Indian youth to fight against the Britishers by becoming a martyr, was going to take effect.

"Bhagat Singh ZINDABAD"
"Rajguru ZINDABAD"
"Sukhdev ZINDABAD"

The anger in the voices seemed to be increasing with every chant of Bhagat Singh. Although, my mind agreed with Bhagat Singh's ideology of revenge, my heart still listened to Bapu and his words. I always choose my heart over my mind, sometimes foolishly.

I took the microphone and a sudden hush went through the crowd of few thousands students. My heart started to speak...

"Inquilab ZINDABAD"

An uproar went through the University, followed by another hush.

"A great injustice has been done today. Bhagat Singh is a martyr. Rajguru is a martyr. Sukhdev is a martyr. They fought and died for us. Their lives were taken before time. We cannot let their deaths to go waste. Our freedom struggle starts today. We cannot let another Bhagat Singh die. We need people like Bhagat Singh for our future. A retaliation against the British will lead to more Bhagat Singhs being hanged. Britishers will hang our future and we cannot let that happen. We will fight for our independence because we cannot let Bhagat Singh die in vain but we would not let another Bhagat Singh die."

There was silence in a crowd until someone shouted, "How will we fight for our Independence, then?"

I knew this was the question whose answer everyone was looking for. I knew I had to answer this...

"We will fight for our rights but we won't die for our rights. We will fight for our rights but we won't kill for our rights. We won't become the enemy because we know we are the 'right' one. We won't respond with violence against violence because we would then become our own enemy. We would stand our ground and show our enemy that we don't agree with them. We won't be cowed down by our enemy. We will fight for our right to live. Bhagat Singh died because he didn't wanted us to die. Bhagat Singh died because he wanted the youth to rise against the tyranny. Bhagat Singh stood his ground and we shall too..."

Now when I think about that, I cannot help but think, "Did I gave the right speech? Should I have listened to my mind instead? ", I don't know the answer myself but I know what Bapu would have said...

(To be continued...)

Blogger Postcards from Around the world, a new picture-post up @ kaarindah...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Creative Society...

In my Media Application class we saw a video titled, "Sowing the Seeds for a more Creative Society". This was a presentation given by a professor at MIT Media Labs, Mitchel Resnick. It was one of the most interesting and thought provoking lectures on creative societies of the future. He started off with a very simple question, Pick the odd one out from: Television, Computer and Paintbrush. Most people would pick Paintbrush because other two are both inventions of 20th century but he comes around to the point that there is or should be much more commonality between a Paintbrush and Computer than the other two because both are an interactive mediums of expression. In India, China and Japan the buzzword is knowledge-based industry but US/Canada are moving to the next step with creative societies, while outsourcing some of the work of knowledge based industries to third-world countries, in order to remain competitive and increase their efficiencies.

MIT Media Lab in Boston

The Professor argues that Computers have to an extent failed the educational system. They have replaced teachers by providing students information but this information is very one-sided and non-interactive. The way computers can serve our society better is by becoming an expression of creativity rather than knowledge. He gave a very interesting example of Kindergarten. How do we learn in school in KG? We usually have a KG class (or Nursery in India) with toys, shapes, colors, paint etc. and we would experiment and explore, to learn about them. He argues that we should have the same approach to rest of schooling where we don't learn from books but by experimenting and exploring things that interest us. I disagree a bit with him because it is necessary to atleast get the basic education the traditional way like Math and Sciences because they are working well but once those are imparted, in later classes we should revert back to the KG approach of learning by experimenting. Traditionally, this would be very expensive way to teach but this is where software technologies can come and let people experiment without being too expensive and in most cases free by using open-source technologies.

Creativity starts here...

He gives an example of Singapore where traditionally Math and Sciences are valued very highly by its society very much like India, but not much innovation is coming from people there because they are not experimenting and learning the old-way. So, although they can solve traditional problems but they cannot provide creative solutions to problems and we are living in a world where in order to succeed one has to be creative to flourish. He then goes on to show how MIT has developed some software that can revolutionize how we learn and educate are generations to come. He also shows example from around the world, how kids are using technology to solve their day to day problems in a creative way.

The last success story he tells is the one that stand out. MIT Labs have Computer Clubhouse Project where they are giving children from low-income families or countries opportunity to express themselves using technology. They have a center in Delhi and he tells about a project there where a 13 year old who was living in slum area, was part of this project and using software with which you could see things under microscope on the computer screen. He was playing with that when he put the water he was drinking under the microscope and discovered that it had germs of all kinds. He decided to check the source of water and found that it was usually taken from municipal taps in unhygienic areas of slums. He did a survey in the slum on how people treat the water and found that boiling water is the best way to get rid of germs and so he convinced his parents to boil the water. It just shows how technology was able to raise standard of living of this individual and his family. This boy learned more by experimenting and exploring then he would have learned it in school if someone would have lectured him about water safety.

As a software professional these are the kind of projects that excite me. It gives me tools to make a difference in our society through my knowledge. If we all can use our skills, that we gained through traditional or otherwise means, we all can contribute to our society. This is one of the most inspiring video that I watched and it had rejuvenated me to learn 'n' explore more, not only to get a good paying job but create software that can bring the best in our society.

This is a long video but if anyone wants to watch it, the link is here.

Destruction, a new photo-post up @ kaarindah...

NEW - A new tech blog by yours truly...Creative Minds

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bangalore Tiger

These tigers unlike regular tigers prowl day and night, they sneak up quietly when they see their target and prey on them, they know no boundaries and are not afraid to venture out to new ones. These tigers are none other than Indian tech companies that are making their roar all over the world. Bangalore Tiger, a very comprehensively written book by Steven Hamm, is about Wipro, India's third largest tech company behind Infosys and TCS. Steve Hamm is a senior editor of Business Week and hence lends credibility to the book in the US media. The book tells the story of Wipro, how it started, grew and is still growing everyday.

Recently, Times of India Group, launched a website and Ad-campaign, India Poised. It talks about two India's, one that is apprehensive and other that is on-the-move to conquer the world. Bangalore Tiger belongs to the 'other' India.

Wipro is one of India's best success story in recent times. A small vegetable oil company transforms into one of India's tech giants. Although, Infosys and TCS are still ahead in terms of revenues and sheer size, Wipro still has made its place in the tech world. This book is clearly a public relations exercise to get into some PR into one of the most exciting markets of all, US. Wipro was listed on Nasdaq later than Infosys and the price difference is shares is almost 3 times (Infy: 58.06 and Wipro (NYSE): 16.83), it still is very significant. Unlike Infosys though, Wipro is bad in marketing and brand management (as the book agrees too) and so this book is a good way to create a buzz in the market.

Wipro's Floating Centre, India's only training centre partially submerged in water, in Bangalore

The book start of by explaining how Indian tech giants are taking on the western companies like Microsoft, IBM and Accenture, not head-on but by differentiating into service industry which is their expertise. Also, how a small company like Wipro is able to lead in multiple market and vertical business units. One of the reasons the book gives for Wipro's success is their ultra-strict ethics and value system, which is translated into The Wipro Spirit - The Intensity to Win, Act with Sensitivity and Unyielding Integrity. Wipro is very high on morals and it clearly comes from the top, Aseem Premji. He not only transformed a sagging oil company but did it without compromising on his moral values. He is one of the architects of new resurgent India. Premji believes on spending very little on frills and gimmicks but takes proper care of his employees without indulging too much in pampering them as some other companies do. Infact, even he flies first-class rather than business-class to make an example.

Wipro's campus in Hyderabad

Aseem Premji was studying engineering in US when he got a call from his mother that his father has passed away and he had to come back. This one incident changed his life forever. He was given a failing vegetable oil company and the first thing he did was to introduce metrics into the business. It was his engineering background that made him trust numbers more than guess-work that was rampant in oil business. For e.g. in order to decide price for buying peanuts for oil, someone would chew a peanut to decide how much oil it has and then price was decided. Premji used engineering methodology to transform that practice into something that could be measured and was far more accurate.

Premji giving one of his lectures virtually

The book is one of the most comprehensive guide into the BPO business or as the book likes to call it, transnational company, that works in virtually every country but most of the work is done remotely back in India with limited onsite people. Wipro had given unlimited access to the writer, Steve, about its business process, business structure, management style, technological details. Living in Canada, I knew a bit about the offshoring business but this book spells it out in detail, how it works, how they make money, how they expand, how they find clients, how they keep them happy.

One area that book recognizes Wipro needs to work on to succeed in long run is Innovation. Companies that innovate are the ones that survive. Premji also recognizes that and has started innovation projects on three levels, technology innovation, solution innovation and process innovation. Premji created Centre for Excellence for R&D into new innovating projects. Another area that Wipro lags is product development but Wipro is not very much interested to go into that because it conflicts with its current business model.

The book ends with following postive words about resurgent India, "The Indian people have the ingenuity to overcome huge obstacles. And from ingenuity comes innovation. You'd better get ready to make room for them"

"Little Church in the Backyard", a new photo post @ Kaarindah

Friday, January 05, 2007

Blog Story Review: Progati - The Tale of Progress

Have women progressed with time? Can the progress of small percentage of women in India be really called 'progress'? Do circumstances play a role in their progress or progati? What is women's progress anyways?

Some of these questions were answered by a lazily written story by Anks, Progati - The Tale of Progress. The story is about two women, Saira - the protagonist and Rewa/Progati. The story starts with a passage from a book that Saira is reading and she is reminded of Rewa, the progressive girl she always idolized. Saira then describes her circumstances, why she was the way she was. She then describes Rewa from her eyes, the way she saw her, the confident, intelligent, passionate, Rewa. Rewa who won debates by advocating 'freedom of women', against Nabin. We get to know through Saira, how one of the numerous articles written by Rewa, changes Saira's life for good. This answers one of the questions above, Do circumstances play a role in their progress or progati?. An article, a personality, had finally managed to change life of Saira for good.

We are then transported to reality. Saira not only progressed but how. She wins the award for writing in the non-fiction category. A shy, timid girl, progresses to complete her PhD and is doing her best to change the world though her words, the same words that changed her life. Although, for Saira, progress doesn't mean leaving her family behind. She is a progressive Indian woman, who not only manages to make their mark in the society but knows how to take care of their family, in her case, her husband, her Abbu and the kids.

For long, Indian men have been wary of the progress made by Indian women. I think they fear that their women may leave them once they progress in life but that what makes Indian women different from the rest. Indian women's idea of progress includes their family and is indeed its their first priority. This is wonderfully portrayed by the character-sketch of Saira in the story.

Saira then meets Rewa after few years, who is the winner of the best fiction, Progati. Although, Saira takes time to recognize her because she seemed to have changed, she notices that Rewa is as strong willed as she was in her college days. We get our first shock of the story (which I won't reveal) but it is as shocking for Saira as it is for us all. After the party, Saira calls Rewa for coffee and asks a favour. It is there that we see Rewa for the first time through Rewa's eyes. This answers the same question, Do circumstances play a role in their progress or progati?. Do circumstances change people or do people create circumstances? Rewa's story proves that both part of the above question can be true at the same time. Circumstances can change people to change their circumstances. Also, it gives a valuable lesson that first impression may not be the last impression. We don't know half the time why people do what they do and so it gives us no right to judge them rightly or wrongly. We get some more twists in the story which actually leads to the right conclusion of the story and helps explain everything that lead to change in circumstances of both Rewa and Saira.

The story ends with an answered question. What does progress of women mean in today's day and age? Which women has more progressed, the one who achieves fame, great career, bright future at the expense of family or the one who has a place in the society, has a good career if not great but who still has her family right behind her in every which way? The answer to this question may vary but the author and myself agree that there need be a balance between career and family, for a women to be truly progressive (or progatisheel). Family should come first for both the spouses but a good career is necessary for that family to get all the comforts of the world. Also, people should realize that women who are housewives are as progressive if they give good education, sanskar and love to children and the family. Infact, their contribution to the Indian society is immense. So, definition of progati as mentioned in the story can vary from person to person depending upon each and everyone's circumstances.

It was Saira's words that in the end planted the seed of progress in Rewa when she says, "...if you want love, you have to first give it."

This was without doubt my favorite story from Anks collection. Her another story that impressed me was Kaya's Story but the filmi twist in the end, made it look hurried. Progati was written lazily, in a long span of time, but each episode was very well written esp. the conversations between Saira and Rewa, which were the heart of the story. The story had right amount of twists, not too many, but the story was more about human relationships from a woman's perspective. The characterization, the setting, the dialouges, the flash-back, were all neatly arranged in the story of two women and their progress.

Although, the story had feminist perspective it was not anti-men story by any stretch of imagination. Feminist was a great movement but it has been relegated to lowest common denominator, which is to put men down. This story gives a better perspective of the feminism by giving respect to men in the story while giving inspiration to women to make a mark in the society.

The story didn't manage to answer all the questions mentioned in the beginning but it was able to raise some and answer some, like a good story should. Progati of women is in their hands and they just need some inspiration, some idols, some words, some stories (like this one) to realise their potential and contribute to the society.

Happy Birthday Anks.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A New Beginning...

It's a cliché but this year should be a new beginning for me in more than one ways. I will be completing my education, getting my immigration, finding a new job, moving to a new city, who knows maybe a new country, hopefully will be visiting India after 6 years. This is the time for resolutions but since they are meant to be broken, its better not to make them in the first place. Although, I have been feeling lately as if something is missing and its not what one may think it is. It's my spirituality, somewhere down the line it's went missing within me. I could feel its absence and hopefully will find it this year. I am sure rest will fall in place.

Happy New Year Everyone!!

May you all find 'something' that is missing in your life this year.

Let the fireworks begin...

Fireworks at Taipei 101, the famous towers in Taipei, Taiwan

Awesome Fireworks 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
One of the best fireworks this year in Singapore. It almost looks magical.

World's largest fireworks display this year from Sydney, Australia.

New Years Celebration from London Eye, Southbank, London.