Wednesday, September 1, 2010

National Geographic Channel and the Bible?

National Geography Channel and it's serial "Riddles of the Bible." Is this the Nat Geo Channel or a biblical evangelist channel? These TV channels, History Channel included, seem to believe this whole world is populated only by Christian believers, and none else; the rest of us do not matter. Our sensibilities are trampled on; and what is a channel, National Geographic, meant to spread knowledge of the Earth, broadcasting a biblical theme?

In the episode I watched, Christians are said to believe Jesus as the returned Messiah will first lead all believers who are righteous to heaven, before the world and evil within is destroyed. Are we all non Christians consigned to an everlasting hell, condemned foster creatures of God?

I think the Christians have every right to believe the articles of their faith, but should a secular channel, National Geographic air these views?

Couple of days back I watched "the Pagan Christ" on Discovery Channel. This serial traced the life of Jesus Christ, the main thrust of the serial is, the life of Jesus is "picked" from the Egyptian tale of Horus, the same virgin birth, the same visit by three wise men, and eventual crucification, rise from the dead and resurrection on the fourth day! A damning indictment of Christian beliefs!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Gulf Oil Spill

The Gulf Oil Leak : just one more huge tragedy, the last, for now, in a long history of criminal negligence by business wealth generators, the ugly side of wealth creation; not just that it will take several generations to recover the eco-system there.

Now mostly forgotten, but the far bigger human tragedy, caused by the unbridled motivation for profit, was the massive introduction, into local economies across the world, of factory produced goods, causing, in many regions, irreversible loss to local producers of goods, bringing poverty throughout many vulnerable societies.

A classic example, when the British put up huge cotton garment factories, at the beginning of the 'Industrial Revolution,' in the 1850s, in Manchester and other parts of Britain, proudly boasting that mass produced clothes were far cheaper, they conveniently failed to bring notice of the tragedy caused to thousands of local dyers and weavers in India, who slipped into poverty, and began crowding cities for work at pitiful wages.

Farmers in India were encouraged to switch from food crops to growing cotton; food stocks, for the millions in India, suddenly depleted, and severe famines, where thousands lost their lives, are now part of forgotten history.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

India! Like a bird that slips from your hand! - 2.

I would like you read the earlier post -"India! Like a bird that slips from your hand!"- first, before you get on to reading this one.

I have been giving the impression I am forever critical of things here. You would think so, after you read the previous post, and I would be dishonest if I would not balance out on those views with this very pertinent, very creditable, very laudable role played by the Indian press, more particularly the television electronic media; comparable to the very best, anywhere in the world.

I follow three Indian television news channels here, Times Now, CNN-IBN and Headlines Today, telecasting in English, and very remarkable indeed, they serve as the voice of an India that values, not just a free and democratic set up, but in every news worthy instance, their views are expressed in full and factual, fearless, forthright, highly detailed exposure, and brook no nonsense !

Frank and candid opinions are expressed on the events covered, the politicians and the powerful are not spared, but the news coverage is balanced and very analytical.

Not just bad news, like Maoist attacks in the North-Eastern States, or a huge fire in an heritage building in Kolkatta, but information and revelations that prove embarrassing to the government of the day, or puts a big whig in the dock; nothing is compromised, nothing is covered up or retracted, there is no question ever of buying these guys.

Ofcourse, there is always the eye on the viewer ship ratings, whenever and at any time, when something more news worthy turns up, the old exposure is relegated to a back story and the new "Breaking News" is brought out on top.

Take the story of Sania, India's top tennis player. How the news on Sania's proposed marriage to the Pakistani cricket player, Shoaib, alleged to be married secretly to a girl from Hyderabad, is 'dumped' when, conveniently (from the TV channels' perspective, the opportunity to change news!), Shoaib divorces the lady from Hyderabad, a grand wedding between Sanai and Shoaib is shown on TV, and the channels move on to the far more 'newsworthy' exposure of the corruption and goings on in the Indian Premier League!

The Indian Premier League, India's top cricket venture, a new and dynamic idea, of teams representing Indian regions or cities (Mumbai Indians, Bangalore Royal Challengers, Chennai Super Kings) see this LINK , and each team owned by franchisees, like India's top businessmen, the Ambanis, or Mallyas, or Wadias and Bollywood actress Priety Zinta.

Brainchild of an otherwise lesser known businessman, Lalit Modi, the idea took India and the cricket world by storm, and the teams include players from Australia, UK, New Zealand, each tournament a festive affair on the American Baseball style, with cheerleaders, and crowds given fibrelights, and a lot of hoopla and night games lit by those huge neon lights.

Then, thanks to some very investigative and nosy journalists, smelling something wrong when a minister in the Union Cabinet (the Federal Delhi ministers) was caught unawares defending his girlfriend's bid to get the franchisee for one of the teams, led from one thing to the other, with the minister tendering his resignation! Lalit Modi, visibly flustered, making contradictory statements and tactical moves, allegedly brings out more dirt-corruption, tax evasion, money laundering and money transferred into foreign accounts.

The TV channels went after the whole thing as would similar media in western countries, even better, with "no stone unturned" and a full 24 by 7 coverage of the whole affair.

Similarly, every piece of news that should appall people, would be given prime time- honor killings in remote and not so remote places in the country, no matter how embarrassing it would be for the local authorities there, expose clandestine manufacture of spurious medicines, expose some absurd religious rituals one of which involved lowering children into a 'sacred' well for getting the water's blessings!

These media chaps have real guts, because powerful politicians can be expected to get back, but do not, because the awareness created by these exposes have made these politicos fear a public backlash!

Presently, a very heated debate is ongoing, through opinions expressed through SMS messages and phone calls to these TV channels, and frank and heated debates on Prime Time, on the death sentence on the lone terrorist survivor, from the 10 terrorists who held Mumbai on ransom by their ruthless attacks that killed some 166 people, in November 2008.

In the Indian judicial system, a death sentence from the lower criminal, anti-terrorist court, has to be confirmed by the higher courts. This takes time, and the angry public, ably supported by the media, are expressing their frustrations that, in the event of an Indian VIP, or someone close to power, being abducted in a new terrorist attack, horse trading would become inevitable- release this terrorist, and get your VIP freed! The public outcry is natural, to get the death sentence carried out before delay and soft pedaling by the government might lead to the whole thing taking a new turn, in the event some horse trading is required!

Right now the CNN_IBN channel is exposing foul deeds of huge and powerful foreign drug companies carrying out highly irresponsible and dangerous tests on human beings here, leading to untimely deaths or aweful side effects.

The Indian media, equal to or better than the best of it's kind in the world!

Here some more on Pune, also tweeted on my twitter geven46:

Pune-India Foreign media fooling all, ask government- give GDP growth of power, roads and water only, you'll get real embarrassing answers.

Pune India- statistical figures will show people have moved out of poverty, nobody will tell you they still get water for one hour daily.

Pune India-statistics show India GDP growth is 10%, nobody tells you the rich use inverter-alternate power,power mains get shut; the poor?

Pune India-call a guy at 4 pm, dont be surprised if he turns up at 7pm! Call up a bank for some details, promised return call, keep waiting.

Pune-India;eye opener, on property websites here, lower prices quoted on websites to attract buyer, on actual enquiry prices are higher!

Pune India-power shut down at 10 am. Will most probably be switched on at 6pm. Stewing in the aweful heat, wet with perspiration. Progress?

Whilst it's true India has far to go, fabulous wealth in grinding poverty, I don't understand why some people subject them to some form of ....................

Every world brand has opened shop in India, a huge middle class, on ground level a mindless bureaucracy, disconnect attitudes, frustrating

Pune India- wedding at my neighbors, huge number of guests, Hindu custom of leaving shoes at the door, but shoes strewn across my door!

Pune India, new, phone for a cab,good; sorry,it stops short of a good system. No record of customer address, no GPS, pl repeat address.

This is 'Wings-dial a cab' outfit. Very indifferent and unresponsive if there are no cabs available when you call; not even a courteous response on phone!

Please do not arrive at Mumbai airport before your check in time-you will be asked to cool your heels in a smelly, badly airconditioned corner of the terminal building, that too after shelling out Rs 60 ($1.50)!

India-if individuals n bureaucracy fail, ideas don't. India was one of the few places where people looking for home were welcome n thrived.

Now back in New Zealand, I am back to some blogging, some internet browsing. Sky TV has introduced "Travel Channel" and I find it very informative and very interesting. Fine serials, with some outstanding photography and well presented, on travel to Bangkok, to Cuba, to Sicily and a train journey through New Zealand's North island, green green and some superb track views and great model trains in Napier.

One particular docu. "Rajasthan" apart from pulling at my sentiments, the India that allures the tourist, makes one wonder for the millionth time how this land of forts and magic and vibrant color, rich in heritage and outstanding culture, thrives alongside the urban India of today, where the very poor smile their way through the massive wealth that has so far bypassed them!

Monday, March 15, 2010

India! Like a bird that slips from your hand!

I am back. Back in my dusty overcrowded home town of Pune, the old British Cantonment chaps called it decide which sounds better.

Up to the early 1980s most of Cantonment Pune- (segregated parts of some Indian cities-from British Raj times-run by the military. It involved ensuring a very healthy environment for the garrisoned troops.)- that was given over to non military ownership/use, was populated by colonial houses, bungalows, open green parks and large leafy trees heavily shading roads and houses. Now, except in areas still used for garrisons, military outfits, the rest of Cantonment Pune has 'merged' with mainstream Pune, a cauldron of chaotic buildings, crazy traffic, dust and smog.

I have no choice but to call it Pune, or else the postal guys will not deliver my mail, if I provide Poona as my city in address details!

But first things first. I flew in from my home Auckland on a Cathay Pacific flight with a stopover at Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Their Economy class seats are designed for a midget race, which, I am afraid we humans are likely to shrink to, a side effect of globalization and climate change?

Cathay Pacific- welcome drink, a menu is presented, with choice from three mains and liquor, then generous with fruit juices- on Auckland-Hong Kong sector;
no welcome drink, no menu, on Hong Kong Mumbai sector-why? A very frugal meal of one mains, a fruit salad and a midget sized sealed mineral water cup........who are they fooling? I suppose I got caught in a booked flight, of passengers returning to Mumbai, on a special package and discount tour arrangement. My bad luck.

Mumbai Airport- Mumbai Airport, you go quickly thru Immigration, very impressive. Then, with just 2 luggage conveyor belts, all hell broke loose.

Some of those Airport Authority folks, with ID Cards hung around their collars, sat, where passengers should, and watched, we, the suffering suckers crowd around the two conveyor belts......there are no red colored floor signs that tell people to stay away from the moving's a free for all, with the tougher and pushy folk getting the better of the situation, pushing out the others, sometimes grabbing the wrong luggage which is then left on the floor, like unwanted orphans.

Pushing and shoving through the crowd, my wife (not me) managed to get our luggage, and we were then off to the Customs green belt, again a very quick thing, and out of the main airport building.

With my patience stretched out, I did not find it funny to see the driver of my rental standing almost last in a very long line of this species, holding a small card board placard with my name miss spelt as "Narielwaha.!"

It's just 4.30 a.m., the heat outside is overpowering,like stepping into an overheated oven; there is construction everywhere, their dark grey silhouettes standing out like silent sentinels of a dying city. The car tyres kick up clouds of dust because the roads need resurfacing, atleast a good wash with so much accumulated dust caking the surface. Good wash? Simply impossible, with severe water shortages across major urban centers.

Media hype on India's economic boom not matched with my hands down experience of awful smog, pollution, traffic chaos, dilapidated buildings, power outages and unrelenting bureaucracy.

Ask for a local mobile and wireless internet service, even a TV connection, and you have to give copies of Passport and fill forms......then the ID verification takes around three to four days to come through; I got a couple of phone calls asking me for my name, age and birth date, then, four days later, the mobile, laptop and TV get connected!

Before I left for India, I was told Pune region have almost no power outages, these are now a minimal and not bothersome.

No sir, power is shut off, on thursdays, for the full day, on other days, at any time of the day, for short intervals.

Good to see flashy BMWs, Audis and the more commonly popular Mercedes, but pathetic to see them waddling through some of the worst roads on the planet, potholes, uneven surface,, roads with tyre markings in deep mud along the edges. And expensive cars rubbing shouders with greasy trucks, badly maintained public transport buses, swarms of three wheeler rickshaws, two wheelers, and old doddering bullocks pulling carts. Dodging through this maze are a mass of people, oblivious of the danger.

Funny, I have not found out yet why, but my Credit Cards from NZ don't work at the shopping mall- here, the display on the credit machine shows up "not accepting." Instead of some help, we get suspicious looks.

I had looked over a few Indian property websites,, and had noted the price tags of a few properties I thought I would look at. To my utter amazement, my inquiries, confirming these prices returned some bizarre responses, the prices quoted are incorrect, that these are higher. Why, I ask? Some property agents put it down to data input errors(?), and one honest guy told me the prices are so displayed to attract buyers, the actual prices are higher!

As a non resident I have to open a NRO account-"Non-Resident Ordinary account." Additionally, a bizarre stipulation rules I cannot open this type of account in the banks where I have my accounts; My bank is one of the private banks allowed the business of banking, by the Indian government, after they had finished with the earlier frenzy of nationalizing previous private banks. ....a very supportive lady there gives me all the customer care I need.

The next best thing to do was to inquire with the ICICI Bank for this NRO Account. Knowing they will need a pretty long list of things to establish my identity as well as my non-resident status, I started calling up ICICI Bank for some start-up can as well call up the devil, he would give you a better response.
Several calls over the last few days, I draw a complete blank ; I am given more telephone numbers each time, "I will now give you the right contact number, please phone him/her and your inquiries will be answered." The next call, the same rhetoric .......I now have some six phone numbers, the sixth number I have, I will dial on monday morning.......let's see what luck comes my way!

Perhaps some of these savvy folks have learnt to sniff out the very rich, so they can afford to ignore and bypass us middle middle level folks!

Some of the news here is not good; the first thing that comes to mind, why is CNN and BBC ignoring this bad news. Four States in north-east India have been under domestic Maoist "attacks" since the past few days. Rail fish plates removed, Trains derailed, and a few traders at one place kidnapped-the train which was derailed is one with pricy tickets, and good thing no one was injured.

Today, Tuesday, 23rd, we, my wife and I, decided we go along for a long ride in a three wheeler rickshaw.

The rickshaw engine is one more fraud foisted on Indian cities; when manufacturing companies, Indian and western-Piaggo etc, could not sell their huge stock of boat engines for fishing boats, these were cleverly converted to fit these rickshaws, to run them with a capacity to carry a load of 3 to 5 passengers. This type of rickshaws run all across India and Pakistan, and most of South East Asia.

Our driver was a gem of a person, and very capable at maneuvering the vehicle. And, he very quickly sized up that we were not accustomed to taking in the traffic smog, and took us through "lesser" roads with a few stray vehicles! Real great guy.

At the end of my two + hours ride, my cough disappeared, my immunity system given a boost by breathing in the dust and smoke!

Before I continue my writing down my experiences, and express my frustrations, I was prompted, right now, by TV coverage of women pilots in the Indian Airforce, smart, good looking with intelligence written all over their faces, prompted to visualize, inspite of poverty, pollution, slow indifferent attitudes in some ways, India has a shining future, if things go right.

I am sorry to come to a conclusion that somehow, most urban Indians seem to be disconnects, dysfunctional. An important deal, at least important to me, my good friend on this deal, oozing confidence and full of very sweet assurances, ended our meeting with an unconditional guarantee he would turn up on the next Sunday morning to close the sale.

Sunday morning went and so did a couple of days. When I next came across the chap, by chance in an apartment lift, the guy coolly tells me to join him for a cup of tea. No mention of his failure to turn up!

My very good neighbors, a couple with a very sweet eight year daughter, and living with the husband's mother and younger sister, made all the usual noises welcoming us and wishing us the best for our short stay in the country. Few days later, the wife turns up and announces she is an investor counselor and agent for some well known debt and market mutual funds. When, after we gave her a very polite and rather long tedious and patient hearing, we told her we were not interested, sorry, she left with this plastered grin on her face.

A day or two later, we heard noises next door, and found the old lady, the mother, and sister, along with the young child, just back from school, sheepishly waiting outside their door. The key hole lever, of their house door, had dropped inside the metal case, so the key would not work and they were cooling their heels. We invited them in, asked them to make themselves at home, offered tea and snacks, whilst they got the "investor counselor" on phone to leave her office and come home with an handyman who is adept at setting right 'key' problems!

To cut a rather long story short , this one had a happy ending, with the neighbor's door opened by the key specialist, and the whole neighbor family trooping out of our apartment. But no thanks, not even a decent thank you or word of appreciation. Now, when I chance to be at my door, entering or leaving my home, I get a good response from these neighbors, a rude thud as they bang their door on me. It will take me a few years to figure out where I went wrong!

I finally got to open my bank account with a multi national bank, very flashy and arty interiors, and smart lady managers, oozing the usual "we love our customers" body language. I was assured I would receive my customer welcome pack in some four or five working days. On the fifth day , my inquiry got the rather abrupt and matter of fact response, on the phone, that there was some delay from their regional office. I got my Customer Welcome Pack, my debit card, cheque book, and some codes for operating the ATM and similar stuff, a full fortnight later.

I went on a Monday to collect my CWP and got the usual warm welcoming smile and we love our customers attitude. This lady manager is a nice person, seemed genuine and friendly. But I could not figure out why she very nonchalantly told me she had received my CWP the last Friday, but somehow it slipped her mind to call me up on the same day!

I've got this Net Connect Wireless Broadband Internet connection that you slip into the computer port and get to browse the internet. I had got mine for a month, when the thing began to go 'disconnect' and no amount of effort got it to work. The 'connect' window would not open and a message would appear 'no device found-device does not respond.'

I called up the Help Line of the Service Provider, who asked me to try out a number of things, like shut down and restart the PC, remove and reinsert the wireless device with a few minutes of wait, reenter the password and user ID, finally shut down the PC for at least forty five minutes, there are some technical hitches they are sorting out.

Nothing worked, not for the next few hours. Finally, on the Help Line advice to try out the wireless device on another PC, I requested my neighbor (not the one who bangs their door on me) to allow me to see if the device works on his computer. It did, to my utter dismay.

When I called back the Help Line they now adviced I get my PC ports checked out for malfunction.

That night, on a hunch and some intuition, I opened my PC's Control Panel, clicked on Internet Options, then opened internet connections and selected wireless connections available, and Viola, found my InterConnect window and clicked on 'connect' and got my internet back, working!

I have not bothered to call up those Help Line chaps to tell them their 'connect' window does not function on my PC, never mind why. Or, waste my energies telling them they should have helped me through the other option of activating the connection through my PC's Control panel!

I find this ironic, India is slowly setting records for a high usage of mobile phones, every urban middle class, all of the rich farmers and middle class in small towns own a mobile phone. Besides, there are cost schemes where the service provider charges one paisa per second-that would work to 60 paisa per minute which is roughly equivalent to one US cent per minute! Sadly, almost all work where the government and nationalised (government controlled banks) banking is involved, there are no paperless systems.....endless visits and filling in endless forms is still the order of the day. Sorry, sir, you have to visit us and fill in required forms and submit them at the right counter, never mind the very long queques!

I do not live in India, but its looming presence is always omnipresent. For my monthly miserly pension, I have to prove I am still 'alive'........still around every two years. If I were living here, in India, it would mean visiting my bankers, presenting myself, filling a wretched form, countersigned by a bank officer, which is then forwarded to the local pension office.

The skull drudgery starts when you live abroad. Before the required mandatory two years expired, I sent a memo by my NZ bank, confirming I am alive and ticking.

No sir, no foreign bank is recognized for this purpose, the application stands rejected. This kind of 'I am still alive' certificate should be countersigned by a government officer in the Indian embassy in the country you live in! Foreign institutions and foreign banks? Not recognized!

The first time I visit my bank in Pune, for this purpose of proving I am alive, the concerned guy was on some sort of holiday..........come the next day, please.

I go back a few days later and am asked to fill in one of those badly printed forms that no one will look at again.........and asked to trudge with this cheap paper to the Pension office to present myself of those dour pen pushing clerk looks you up and down, satisfies himself there is a human person in his blinkered view, stamps the paper several times, and tells you your banker will receive the pension credit in time! And all this after I managed to jump a long queue, feigning I am a tired senior citizen.