Sunday, November 13, 2011

South Asian Good News Channel – Logo Competition

 To develop logo for South Asian Good News Channel that it could use in various communications

1.       The logo should be original and shouldn’t be copyrighted
2.       The selected logos cannot be used for any other competitions or for any other organizations
3.       The logo should depict the ethos of South Asian Good News Channel. South Asian Good News Channel aims at providing good, happy, development news from the SAARC nations through Social Media. The primary audience is youth (15 to 30 years old) of the SAARC nations. More information about SAGN Channel can be obtained from the SAGN Facebook page or from the following articles (article 1, article 2)
4.       The logo should have a maximum of 4 colors
5.       The logo should preferably be distinct and simple

1.       Go to and like the page
2.       Upload the logo image in the ‘Logo Competition’ Album. Only photos uploaded to this album are eligible for the competition
3.       If selected, send a high resolution version to

Selection Process
1.       The winner will be selected based on the number of likes and comments a logo gets on the Facebook page.
2.        For each ‘like’ on the logo the designer will get  1 point and for each comment he/she will get 1.33 points
3.       The likes and comments on the album will not be considered for determining the winner

1.       The count of the number of likes and comments will be done on 5th December 2011. Likes comments after 5th December 2011, 11:59 pm will not be considered for the competition
2.       It is advisable that you submit your logo as early as possible so that there is enough time for people to review it and give cast their ‘vote‘ - likes/comments

1.       The winning logo will get a chance to be the official logo of SAGN Channel
2.       A strong resume point for winning an international logo design event and creating official logo for a social imitative
3.       Customized goodies which will have your own created logo (only if  the winner is based out of India)

In case you need any other information, please feel free to contact us at

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fast Leadership

[All characters in this article are fictitious and bear no resemblance to any person living or dead. Any similarity with anything living or dead is purely coincidental]

The leadership fever has engulfed the nation. Everyone wants to be a leader. The person walking ahead is leading from the front while the one walking behind is leading from the rear. And the 'education industry' wants to bridge this gap - the craze among people to be leaders and their leadership skills. This is nothing new for the education industry. They have effectively tapped the obsession of nation with CAT. Now, they have risen up the value chain and have started courses on developing leadership skills.The pioneer in the field of leadership training is 'Fast Leadership'.

'Fast Leadership' training institute claims that they provide holistic training to transform a normal person into a leader very quickly. They also update their curriculum with the latest trends in the leadership domain. Their program is very comprehensive. One of their key courses is on delegation. According to the Ramesh Babu, director of Fast Learning, a leader should delegate work to his team. Since he is leading the team, he should delegate all the work. In times like these, when no one wants to work, a leader should effectively and authoritatively delegate work. 'Decision Making' is another very important skill that is taught at Fast Learning. A leader should take his own decision. Listening to his team, only means that his team is better than him. Even if he doesn't have a clue about the problem, he should make the decision.If one knows something, it's very obvious that he will be able to take decision. But what differentiates a good leader is his ability to take decision even when he has no clue about things.

According to Ramesh Babu, 'Communication Skills' cannot be over emphasized. A leadership should be good at talking to an audience. Even when he is having a small meeting with a couple of members of his team, he should behave as if he is talking to a gallery of 5000 people. The logic is very simple - if something is said with an intensity that 5k people can understand, then definitely 2 will. A leader has to Make Decision, Delegate Work and Communicate Effectively. The leader should represent the group at forums and should take credit for the success - after all, he is the leader. A leader should have good 'Evaluation Skills' to evaluate and identify the improvements. A leader should constantly let his team know where they are going wrong so that they can improve.

Apart from the comprehensive course structure what really differentiates 'Fast Leadership' is their updated curriculum. There is a research team which studies the recent trends to incorporate them in the curriculum. Looking at the recent events, Fast Leadership has started a course on 'Fasting'. Ramesh Babu believes that this course is going to truly transform their students into real leaders. He gives examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Anna Hazare and recently Narendra Modi to show the importance of fasting skills in becoming effective leader. Anna Hazare wasn't a bureaucrat nor a lawyer. He did not have the background to understand the nuances of the Govt. Lokpal bill or to draft the Jan Lok Pal bill (which was not drafted in January) all by himself. However, Anna Hazare was the face of the movement. One of the key skills which he had was 'fasting skills'. If Anna Hazare couldn't control his hunger or taste-buds, would it be possible for him to create such a vast movement? Perhaps an Arvind Kejrival or a Kiran Bedi could have driven the movement. The skill that Anna had honed was 'Fasting Skills' and that contributed to a huge extent in making him a leader. He also goes to the extent of saying - Imaging if Gandhi couldn't stay hungry! Perhaps, the Britishers would have left a couple of decades later. Gandhi's fasting skills made him a leader.

He mentions that one of the features of 'Fast Leadership' is 'upgrade-ability'. Even after a person passes out, he can still get access (for a small fee) to newer courses that are developed. On asking about the past record of 'Fast Leadership', Ramesh Babu mentioned that they have developed great leaders out of ordinary people. Narendra Modi graduated from our institute in Feb 2002. He recently also upgraded and took our new course on 'Fasting'.

'Fast Learning' is all set to shape the leadership coaching industry. With knowledgeable people like Ramesh Babu, who know the worth of every pinch of skills that goes to make a true Leader, backing 'Fast Learning' it's clear that even sky is not the limit.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

South Asian Good News Channel

Modi bribed my lawyers to derail PIL on riots: Sarabhai

15 hurt in Agra hospital blast, UP on high alert

Bharatpur riot: Rajasthan seeks CBI probe

Illegal mining: CBI finds goldmine in Reddy aide's locker

Dey murder: did weapon come from Nepal?

The above are the headlines from leading newspapers of the country. There is one thing that's common among them - negativity. The mainstream media is somehow focused more on the negative news and goes extra mile in spreading them. I am sure they have their reasons for doing that. The 'Good News' somehow gets dug in the 12th page bottom left 2"x1" corner of the newspaper. In such a scenario all that is available to aam admi is negative news. And being the most intelligent species, he discusses them at office tea table, in college canteens and shares it on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. These creates a vicious cycle where we subconsciously breathe in the negativity and participate in spreading such negative news. Being cognizant of the negatives happening around is one thing and propagating them is another.

When being constantly bombarded by the media with the negative news, we tend to create an image about things and makes us lose objectivity - Politicians are corrupt. Pakistan is giving space to terrorists on their soil. Traffic police take bribe. These are some of the dogmas many of us have. I had a few of these. And the reason is we are not told of the good side of things. We are not told of a politician who is truly working towards making the life of his people better. We don't come across news of how a christian nun is improving the life of several children in the streets of Kolkata. How a farmer is innovating to pump water efficiently and in an environment friendly way.

Clearly, there is a need for source of Good News where good deeds happening around us are highlighted. These news would act as positive stimulus to our brains to think about solution, to get inspired. It would make us believe that life is not all that bad and that there is hope , there are good people and good things do happen. South Asian Good News Channel is a small step towards spreading positive news.

Now the question in your mind would be - Why South Asia? The seed of this idea - South Asian Good News Channel - was sown at SAYC 2011 where delegates from the SAARC nations got together to discuss real issues. We found that there was so much in common among the South Asian Nations. Not only history and culture - but the tastes, the likes and dislikes, our behavior, our take on issues was also very similar. At the end of the Conference, if was difficult to identify a Pakistani from an Indian and an Indian from a Sri Lankan. If such harmony exists at people level then this definitely needs to get highlighted. Pakistan is not India's enemy nor is Afghanistan Pakistan's. The media, to a certain extent, is over-emphasizing the conflicts and under-emphasizing the people-to-people harmony. The South Asian Good News Channel will help in highlighting not only good things happening around us but also happening across the borders to foster international peace among South Asian nations.

At the end of the day when you are tired after a day long work or frustrated by your irrational boss's unreasonable expectations - you can tune into the South Asian Good News Channel for your dose of inspiration.

To get the Good News from South Asia - subscribe to the Facebook page - or the twitter handle

Monday, August 22, 2011

Man is a pest

[Acknowledgment: This article is inspired from Ranjan Malik's TEDx Talk, "Fool and his kind of innovation"]

Big Bang, as he was fondly called, once decided to make a time piece. A time piece - he would make just once and will run forever without any intervention. He designed the time-piece as self correcting as possible and vowed to not touch the system after it is made.

Being a connoisseur of art, he created several spherical objects and kept them such that the force between them kept them "stable" as well as in motion. They repeated their motions after specific periods. It was a pretty complex time-piece as it contained hundreds of particles - each with its own motion and time period.

Big Bang painted one object with utmost interest. He painted 70% of it blue and 30% of it green. He, then, added texture to the surface. There were areas that were higher and rocky while others that were plain.

Slowly and steadily the termites started increasing their colony on this most favorite object of Big Bang. They had their king and queen termites along with worker and soldier termites. Worker termites undertake the labors of foraging, food storage, brood and nest maintenance. The soldier caste has anatomical and behavioral specializations, providing strength and armor. Many soldiers have jaws so enlarged that they cannot feed themselves, but instead, are fed by the workers. [Source]

Soon, their nests started reaching above ground forming what is called mounds or anthills. In certain areas the mounds became very high. Then, there started a crazy competition among the different colonies of termites to create the tallest of mounds. The termites eventually forgot the purpose of creating mounds and started digging into the surface of the-once-upon-a-time-beautiful object. They started making the object weaker and weaker. A few, too few, worker termites realized that making such insanely high rise mounds is only going to bite them back. They tried convincing others. But the kings, the queens and the soldiers didn't listen to them. Other worker termites were too busy doing their daily chores to even think of long term repercussion of the high rise mounds.

Eventually, the object that Bing Bang had created with immense love and affection was dotted with high-rise mounds. The balance that the object was to maintained changed slightly - though not significant enough for the termites to perceive. The termites kept eating their own 'home'.

Big Bang helplessly watched his most favorite object in the time-piece rot.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Price Rationalization

When you buy something - anything - say an apple, what do you pay for? You pay for the cost incurred in procuring the raw material - seed, fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides. You pay for the services used - water, electricity, transportation, storage. You pay for the human resource at each point of the supply chain right from the wages of the farmer to the salary of the salesman. You pay for the taxes and the profits for each party involved.

Is that all you pay for? Given the inflation and the macro-economy, I wouldn't want to pay for any of these things! But then there are a few things we don't even consider we need to pay. But as the law of Karma goes, one has to pay for everything one has used.

Nothing is free.

Have you considered who pays to neutralize the pollution created by burning the  fuel used in transporting the apple from the field to the retailer? Who pays for the decomposition of the plastic bag that is give "free" along with the apple?

There are umpteen initiatives by the civil society to counter the climatic deterioration - plant trees, car pool, turn-lights-off-for-an-hour. These all are great initiatives and does help. However, to reduce the problem the pricing in the whole value chain needs to be rationalized.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we have started adding value to things based on the price (the converse,  however, should be true). So, if we really want people to stop using the plastic, the best solution, in my opinion, is to 'rationalize' its price. The moment we start adding the 'cost' of decomposition to the costs of the plastic considered currently, its price will go up and will automatically deter people form using it.

Basically, the idea is that people who does the crime pay for it. If someone is using more plastic or more fuel then he should pay for the treatment of the pollution he creates. Currently, everyone pays the price - either in terms of tax which is used in green initiative by the government or in terms of the diseases we gets because of the pollution.

It's analogous to going for an equal-contribution-lunch with a large group to a very expensive place. Each one in the group thinks of ordering the most expensive item as the value he gets by eating it is much less compared to price he pays (given, it is shared by a large number of people). When everyone starts thinking in that way - the overall bill becomes much higher and so does each person's share. However, if we change the system to - pay-for-what-you-eat instead of equal-contribution, then each person will only order things he likes and are within his budget. This reduces the personal bills and hence the overall bill.

But currently, everyone is paying.

Sadly, changes will not happen over-night. There are huge vested interests that believe in ordering the most expensive dish in an equal-contribution system. These influential people will obviously not allow the system to change to pay-for-what-you-eat. Perhaps, I'll explore in a later post the topic of how these 5% of the people make policies which are beneficial to themselves but still impose it on the 95%

As civil society, we should start thinking and discussing the rationalization of the prices in the value chain. There a host on intangibles involved and converting them into dollar/rupee value will be challenging. Convincing the powers that be to incorporate these challenges will be even more difficult. We have seen a glimpse of this brazen futility at Copenhagen in December 2009. However, it's only when we start debating and discussing about price rationalization and more so questioning the price of things that we buy, we'll be overwhelmed by the "irrational" prices. And as a society, we might want to pay in money than by deteriorating our health due to environmental issues.

I guess, i now understand the proverb better - There is nothing called a free lunch.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Zabaan Sambhal Ke

Ramesh is an ordinary middle class child with ordinary middle class values and ordinary middle class sensibilities. Ramesh goes to a local school and leads a very peaceful life with his parents. Ramesh’s parents are not educated and run a small shop that just saves them from falling into ‘lower’ income group.

Scene 1:

Ramesh gets an opportunity to visit a big IT MNC. Ramesh’s parents were always fascinated by the professional looking, fluent English speaking employees of such MNCs and wished that he gets a job in one of the MNCs when he grows up.

Ramesh enters the office and attends the guided tour. He is amazed at the infrastructure. He thinks he is ‘living’ the movies he saw on Doordarshan. He is awestruck at the fluency in which they spoke English. However, he gets separated from the group. He feels like being in a maze which looks similar in all directions. While trying to get his way out, he gets the slice of the lives of IT professionals.

He hears a man addressing his female colleague as a female dog. He hears a professionally dressed girl laughing and exclaiming at the coitus. As he makes his way through the maze, he sees a man near a coffee vending machine. His facial expression said that he was drinking some really bad tasting drink. However, Ramesh was surprised to hear him say that the coffee drank instead of he drinking the coffee. He sees the symbol of a staircase and walks towards it. On the way, he finds a suited employee asking his colleague to copulate off. He finally reaches the staircase where he finds his group.

Being a reserved person that Ramesh is, he didn’t share his experience in detail with his family.

In the night, after a long day's work, Ramesh’s father urges him to be like the IT professionals he visited that day

Scene 2:

It’s 7:00 am and the mercury reads 40. Ramesh’s father is dropping him to school. He is taking his usual route which passes through a slum. Ramesh sees two women fighting for a bucket of water. The communication which is in Hindi is decorated with expletives. The women did not forget to bring the relatives of the other in the conversation and gave creative adjectives to them. Ramesh was observing the fight with curiosity. Ramesh’s father pulled him and increased his speed. A few steps ahead, a group of children from the slum were playing cricket. While playing, what appeared out of camaraderie, the children referred (in Hindi) to things related to the biological process of reproduction. Ramesh was again listening to them.

Ramesh’s father briskly walks past the slum. He tells Ramesh that people from good families don’t talk in such a language. Only people from slums do so. He urges Ramesh to not be like them.

Ramesh is left confused.

PS: I wanted to write this post a couple of weeks back but was thinking of how to write it without using the actual expletives. Hope, I was able to convey the thought without the use of any 'such' words.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Delhi Belly: After-thoughts

The unconventional name of the movie which literally means diarrhea, first-of-its-kind songs - D K Bose and Penchar and given that it is an Aamir Khan (and UTV) Production gave an impression that Delhi Belly is going to be an unconventional movie. The starting scene showing very minute details of water running down the drain while the bucket is just a foot away, the cockroach (which almost occupied the full screen) eating stale pizza beneath the bed on which is slept a fat man whose depression between his bum cheeks becomes the focus of the camera person further reinforced my initial assumption. After watching the film, i must say, I wasn't right. Neither was I wrong.

I found the interview which Tashi (Imran Khan) took of Anusha Dandekar, who plays a 'pop star' in the film, amusing. Anusha's new songs lyrics are - 'I hate you (like I love you)' which she spells out as ' I hate you brackets like I love you'. This line reminded me of my drives through Jubilee Hills, Road No. 36 in Hyderabad. The road is lined with hoardings of advertisements of ADP. These ads, which have been there for more than two years, are very peculiar. The ads try to position the company as a company that employees love to work with. The tag line goes like - "We like to go to office of Monday. (Do you?)", "My mummy likes to go to office. (Do you?)." A quick disclaimer: I don't remember the exact verbatim of the ads. So please pardon any errors. But I hope you get the point. I am hinting at (Do you?) part of it. I always found the ads a little funny. I never understood the rationale of putting the 'Do you?" in brackets. I initially thought it was a typographical error but soon dismissed that argument after seeing it in hoardings after hoardings. I thought that there a lot of things I don't understand that this one of them. Tashi, the protagonist, by being sarcastic to Anusha on the '(like I love you)' enlightened me that there is a more evolved section of society who have interpreted the meaning of 'brackets' which I am yet to discover.

The narrative of the film is well paced. The dialogues of the films, needless to say, are very contemporary and elicit quite a few bouts of laughter. The music of the film is outstanding. Most of the songs play in the background and takes the story of the movie forward. Acting by each of the actors is awesome.

Coming back to the film: The title of the film is apt as 'Delhi Belly' is central to whole plot. Ntin (Kunal Roy Kapoor) eats unhygienic roadside tandoori chicken and get diarrhea. Because of Nitin's diarhea Arup (Vir Das) has to deliver the smuggled diamonds but mistakenly delivers the stool sample instead. This kicks-off the pakda-pakdi between the three friends and the goons and ends in a conventional happily-ever-after ending.

While enjoying these explicit dialogues, superb camera angles and amazing music, one tends to think where exactly is the story going. Having high expectations on this film, I was hoping that the stories would take a twist and become more engaging. But to my disappointment, the story turned out to be pretty mundane. The line from a song of this film aptly describes the plot - 'Sabun ki shakal mein, beta (plot) tu to nikla keval jhaag'. 

Given that the story is so 80s, I was wondering why no such film got released then. Films mirror the society. Well, I am not saying that people in the yesteryear didn't use expletives. The film however represents who has the cash. Before liberalization/globalization, Indian middle class didn't have enough money to watch films. Majority of the people who had money to watch movies were in their thirties and went with their families and kids. So, the films of the 80s were targeted at the PSU employee, who though in his youth would have used vernacular expletives, still embraced traditional Indian values. India now has a growing upwardly mobile middle class who speaks expletive English and has disposable income. Delhi Belly is targeted at them. And if I were to predict, then only more movies with such 'local' language will be made. Indian cinema is at a transition phase and this film plays a significant role in it.

Overall, I have mixed views of the film. It is unconventional and outstanding in the narrative, music and camera. However, the plot of the film is very ordinary. The film reminds me of Angrez - good narrative and dialogues but ordinary storyline.Watch this film if you want to have a good time with friends. Don't watch it if you are expecting anything more than that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pakistan, in person: Part II

After discussing about life in Pakistan, Islamic terrorism and Gandhi-Nehru-Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto(which I have posted in part 1 of the interview) we went talking about life of a common man under dictatorship, Osama Bin Laden, Women literacy and IPL. We wrapped up with Koffee with Karan style rapid fire covering topics like Lashkar-e-Toiba.

People in India and rest of the world have an image of Pakistan which is very different from the actual Pakistan. Hope this series of uncensored interviews help in clearing a lot of doubts about Pakistan and Pakistanis. For me it was a revelation of sorts. I am indebted to Muhammad Awais Awan and Ayesha Ilyas for sharing their views on issues which are in the top of our minds but are never discussed. I still remember that time. At about 1:30 am, after a really long and hectic day, you guys had no dearth of enthusiasm and agreed to give the interview. Thanks Ayesha and Awais! You guys rock!

Prashant: Pakistan had democracy until 1999. Then there was dictatorship and now again there is democracy.  As a common citizen of Pakistan what changes did you see in people’s life before dictatorship, during dictatorship and now?
Ayesha:  In the ten years since 1999, Pakistan has regressed to a state which is probably worse than what it was 50 years back. Before 1999 though the government wasn’t good, people were having peaceful life.  In 1999 we gave a warm welcome to Musharraf’s government which was our mistake.  We didn’t realize that democracy can never be worse than dictatorship.  Even if it was bad, the elections would have somehow changed things for better.  The 2001 episode happened. Musharraf gave everything in the hands of America, took a U-Turn on the Taliban issue. The whole region got disturbed only because of  Musharraf.  Countries in this region refused to give help to America. Pakistan could have done the same. We didn’t need America. This one decision of Musharraf destroyed the whole life of ours. The period after '99 is responsible for the state in which a common Pakistani is living today.
Prashant: How are things now when you have democracy?
Ayesha: This democracy is even worse than that dictatorship because this democracy has arrived in the same way in which Musharraf’s dictatorship came. As per the Election Commission’s report, out of 18 crore population, only 90 lakh votes were genuine the rest were fake. So, this government is not chosen by us but by fake votes. So, how can something that that we have not chosen be good for us?
Prashant: Are there any changes in the life?
Ayesha:  Disastrous changes. In 5-6 years, the ‘roti’ that we bought for 2 rupay we buy it for 10 rupay (and that too smaller sized roti). When we wanted to curse someone and didn’t want it to come true, we would say – “may he get killed in a bomb blast or some bomb gets dropped on him” because we thought this is just not possible to happen.  But now if you say this to anyone you are abusing him. Things weren’t as bad before.
Awais: To sum up, I’d say two things: Before 99 there was democracy to a certain extent. At least the people were happy. When the dictatorship came, the people were disturbed. Musharraf took a few decisions which disturbed things. In the follow-up, he did such works that the bomb blasts started. When the bomb blasts started not only did the internal peace got impacted but we started becoming infamous in the world. After this, we got democracy. And as Ayesha said, this is worse than the dictatorship. No one in Pakistan is staying in peace.  The situation is such that if you go to a big city, say Peshawar, then you don’t know whether you would come back home safely. 

The situation is such that if you go to a big city, say Peshawar, then you don’t know whether you would come back home safely. 

Prashant: Let’s talk about Bangladesh. Before ’71, it was East Pakistan now it is Bangladesh. What’s your take on the whole episode?
Ayesha:  In the election of ’71, the majority was that of people of Bangladesh and they were to form their government and have their prime minister. Bhutto may have done a lot of good work but his biggest mistake or rather sin was that he divided Pakistan for his own ego.  He made Mujibur Rahman a culprit – even in our course books say Mujibur Rahman was the culprit and spread that India was supporting the divide and Mujibur Rahman. Even if India was supporting him, the mistake was Bhutto's – the mistake was our own.  Why will a third person interfere in your home? Only if you make a mistake will a third person interfere and take advantage of it. Even if India did anything wrong, we were the reason behind it. He, only for his ego and to come to power, divided Pakistan into two parts. 

Bhutto may have done a lot of good work but his biggest mistake or rather sin was that he divided Pakistan for his own ego.

Prashant: Osama Bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan. As local people what is your take on it?
Ayesha: Osama Bin Laden was not in Pakistan so there is no question of his being caught there. He most definitely didn’t get killed there. America killed Saddam Hussain in the public. Osama was a bigger criminal. ‘Toh use paani mein kyon baha diya?’ America just needed an excuse to get out of Afghanistan because it was badly stuck there. The simplest way for this was – Pakistan is anyway infamous. Do a drama of killing him in Pakistan. ‘Apne logon ko yeh toffee khila do ki’ – Osama is dead so we don’t have any reason to stay in Afghanistan. ‘Apni jaan chhuda lo; sab kuchh inke sar pe dal do’ . Destroy our whole economy and damage all our relations and escape.
Prashant: After that, Taliban’s leader, umm…
Ayesha: Mullah Omar?
Prashant:  Mullah Omar is said to have been killed in Pakistan.
Awais: It is rumour.
Prashant: Rumor?
Awais:  If we talk of Saddam Husain, if America wanted to hang him they could have done it in a closed jail but they showed it – the whole world saw; they showed it even till the rope was pulled. If they have killed Osama, then at least show the body.  How many times will you kill one person? To share a little story – I got an SMS the other day – ‘We heard that Osama got killed in 2005, then in 2008, in 2009, 2011. We’ll hear that he got killed in 2015. How many times will you kill him yaar. Even Start Plus doesn’t kill so many times!’
Ayesha: Mullah Omar may as well be in Pakistan. If he is in Pakistan then CIA must be protecting him.  Who else is protecting? CIA can take an insect out from beneath the earth.  If he was in Pakistan from last 5 years then why didn’t they catch him before? If they came to know in March that he’s there then why did CIA wait till May? For their own benefits. If he was in Pakistan then it’s not because Pakistanis have sheltered him but because CIA would have hidden him there.

 We heard that Osama got killed in 2005, then in 2008, in 2009, 2011. We’ll hear that he got killed in 2015. How many times will you kill him yaar. Even Start Plus doesn’t kill so many times!’

Prashant:  What is the perception of the people of Pakistan about the 26/11 episode? How do people perceive it?
Ayesha:  People are somewhat neutral about it. Even in the Talibanization of Pakistan, they have involved Pakistani nationals. Anyone can be ‘spoiled’ in exchange of money.  We don’t support any terrorist activity whether in India or in Pakistan, whether committed by Indian or Pakistani. If Ajmal Kasab was a major culprit, it doesn’t matter whether he was a Pakistani national; what matters is what he has done. He should be punished according to his deed.
Awais: Situation in Mumbai is similar to that in Karachi. You can pay anyone to kill. As Ayesha said, Ajmal Kasab could have been used. Another thing that we see is that if there is a bomblast here, it is said that it is done by Pakistan. If there is a bomb blast in Pakistan it is said that it is done by India. These are possibilities. I personally feel that if there shouldn’t be any bomb blast in India because of Pakistan. Similarly, maybe you also feel the same. If Ajmal Kasab has done what he’s claimed to have done then he should be punished.
Ayesha: The problem is – a lot of times things don’t reach the aam admi. What reaches people is what they want, what they can cash. They are playing with emotions of the people and twisting facts accordingly.  Maybe he is a Pakistani. Maybe he did what is said he did. If he’s done then he should get punished accordingly, regardless of whether he an Indian national, Pakistani national or American national. Raymond David wasn’t spared for what he did in Pakistan. Similarly, if Ajmal Kasab did the miscreant then he shouldn’t be spared.
Prashant: The bottom line is that people of both the countries want ‘aman’.
Ayesha: Exactly.
Prashant:  No one wants bomb blast anywhere.
Ayesha: And who dies in it? An ordinary Indian. What is his mistake? He is also human like us, eats-drinks like us.  He also has aims like we have.  If he’s loyal to his country then it’s good. If he thinks well about India, then he should – it’s logical. If someone staying in Pakistan and thinks against Pakistan then he is mad, he will be bad for us. We cannot consider someone (Indian) as our enemy because he thinks well about India.
Prashant: If someone can think ill for his country then he can think ill for other country as well.
Ayesha: Exactly. 

 We don’t support any terrorist activity whether in India or in Pakistan, whether committed by Indian or Pakistani.

Prashant: Coming to women literacy. About 25% of the women are literate. Even lesser women enter work force.
Ayesha:  The problem of illiteracy is not limited to women. Everyone in Pakistan – men or women - should be provided education. Employment opportunity should also be available to all. However,  I would support for employment opportunity for men. In our society, men are supposed to earn the money for the house. The women earns money for jewelries, bags, parties, etc.  Instead of giving the 10,000 rupay to a women, if you give it a man, he would run the whole ‘khandaan’. So, I wouldn’t support women getting more employment. If a woman really needs to take care of her family financially then it makes sense. For women who do it ‘shaukiya’, I don’t think they should get the opportunity. Instead, if that opportunity is given to a man, then he can run the whole ‘khandaan’.           
Prashant: What about ambition of women?
Ayesha: I don’t think that if you are sitting at home and raising the family you are doing anything less than anyone. You are doing more than the man. You are preparing the next generation and taking care of the whole house. Yours is the biggest contribution. Because, no man can do that. No man can do that. No matter what a man does, he cannot run a house like a woman. If you leave the house on a man, he messes up everything. Instead of leaving the house to some third person, if a woman is taking care of her family then she is doing nothing lesser than anyone. Allah Miya – God – Bhagwan, who has created things that way, knows more than us.
Awais: From mainstreaming perspective, we have some plans and we will see literacy rates higher in a few years in Pakistan.
Ayesha: Education should be for everyone. It is not necessary that if someone is educated then he/she should do job.

Prashant: Finally a question on cricket. In IPL, no Pakistani players were selected. There was a lot of media reaction around it.
Awais: There should be some reaction. If you look at that time, the Pakistani team was very strong.
Prashant: But in IPL it’s all divided
Awais: Yes. It does get divided. But why the celebrities didn’t select them? I have this question from you.
Prashant: In the media it was told that they were invited.
Awais:  Is it that IPL had some problem with ‘Lahore Badshah’?
Prashant: There are two views on this. One is that the selectors didn’t select them for their own reasons. The other thing that was floating around was that it was the same year that 26/11 happened and because of which they were not selected.
Awais: I’d like to quote something from the Indian media. The celebrities were bounded to not select Pakistanis.  What about it?
Prashant:  As Shah Rukh Khan said in his media bite…
Awais: Main Shoab Akhtar ko lena chah raha tha but due to some reasons couldn’t take him
Prashant: So, everyone had their own answers for not selecting any Pakistani player. But another view was also that it was the year of 26/11.
Awais: As far as IPL is concerned, despite there is no Pakistani, but people in Pakistan do see IPL. Right now as the finals are going on, there are people who would have closed their shops or left their offices to see IPL. So, there should be some Pakistanis. Now, how is it possible? I think the factor is – ‘Indian Premiere League’. So, why have ‘Lahore Badshah’ in it.
Ayesha: I think IPL is not an issue. Those playing in IPL played for money – neither for India nor for Pakistan. It is up to the selectors to choose you. They don’t select you based on your passport. They select based on your skills. Instead, if Inda or ICC forbids Pakistani players in India, then it would be a matter of provocation. If someone is not getting selected in IPL, then there is no need of creating an India-Pakistan issue out of it because the person is playing for money and not for India/Pakistan.

If someone is not getting selected in IPL, then there is no need of creating an India-Pakistan issue out of it because the person is playing for money and not for India/Pakistan.

Prashant: We’ve come to the last leg of our interview. This is on the lines of ‘Rapid Fire Round’ in Koffee with Karan. You need to say whatever comes first to your mind (Apparently, they were familiar with Koffee with Karan and the Rapud Fire!)

Prashant: India
Ayesha: Incredible
Awais: Same as Pakistan

Prashant: China
Ayesha: Friend
Awais: Next super power

Prashant: US
Awais: Bull shit
Ayesha: A true rival

Prashant: Taliban
Ayesha: Nothing
Awais: Not Muslims

Prashant: Al Qaeda
Ayesha: Another name for CIA
Awais: Agreed

Prashant: Shah Rukh Khan
Ayesha:  A good actor
Awais: Celebrity

Prashant: Sachin Tendulkar
Ayesha: He’s a celebrity
Awais: Celebrity

Prashant: Mohammad Ali Jinnah
Awais: Great Leader
Ayesha: Mohammad Ali Jinnah… was a… great leader

Prashant: Madrasas
Awais: Some religious schools
Ayesha: Wrongly implemented.
Madrasa basically means school. Even ‘Talib’ means someone who’s struggling for knowledge. Even Madrasas were a good place whose term has been wrongly used. It’s our mis-interpretation
Prashant: So, we are misinterpreting the term, Madrasa
Ayesha: Yes we are misinterpreting the term and we have started implementing it in a wrong way. In Pakistan I have seen Madrasas which teaches religion as well as computer. I’d call it the right madrasa. Madrasa is not where you are taught Talibanization. That is not madrasa

Prashant: Lashkar-e-toiba
Awais: No Comments
Ayesha: Lashkar-e-taiyyaba… It was initiated as a group who would work for human rights in a way which they thought was correct. Maybe, the one who started it, started it with right intentions and maybe who are taking it forward are doing it in a wrong way. Basically, the concept was pertaining to human rights. If people running it are wrong then the blame shouldn’t go to people who started it. If a few people of a religion does something wrong, the blame goes to the person and not the whole religion.

Thanks, once again, Awais and Ayesha for speaking to the people of India and through the Internet to the people of the world. I am also thankful to SAYC for giving us the platform where such candid, people-to-people discussion could happen. Hope a lot of misconceptions about Pakistan has been cleared in this!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pakistan, in person

Pakistan, our most loved and hated neighbor! Pakistan is very similar to India yet the border between them is the most dangerous border in the world. Sitting on this side of the border, from the Indian, western and the Pakistani media, we have a mental image of Pakistan. The South Asian Youth Conference gave me an opportunity to interact with the youth of Pakistan. In the one week I was at the Conference, I made good friends with the Pakistani delegates. In fact, by the end of the conference it was very difficult to differentiate the Pakistani delegates from Indian delegates.

I had a candid, politically incorrect and real interview with the Pakistani delegates. The interview touched upon the life of aam admi in Pakistan and sensitive issues like 9/11 and 26/11. Below is the first of the two-part interview with two common citizens of Pakistan.

Note: The interview, which was in Hindi/Urdu, has been translated and transliterated below. Some Hindi/Urdu words and language specific constructs are kept as is to reduce the harm caused by translation.Please excuse the grammatical errors in this post.

Prashant: We will start with a brief introduction:
Awais: My name is Muhammad Awais Awan. I have come from Pakistan to attend South Asian Youth Conference. I am associated with United Nations' Youth Advisory Panel which gives policy level inputs for its different youth programs.
Ayesha: As-Salamu-Alaykum. My name is Ayesha Ilyas. I am from Peshawar, Pakistan. I am doing honors in communication design. I have done bachelors in mass communication. I am a political activist and a writer.

Prashant: Is this your first visit to India?
Ayesha: No, this is my second visit. Before this, I had come to India as a SAARC delegate for the National Youth Festival of India which was held at Orissa.
Prashant: So how do you find India?
Ayesha: India... India is somewhat similar to ours. I even like it a lot for things where it is different.
Prashant: What are the similarities and where do you think India differs from Pakistan?
Ayesha: The language is similar. The dressing sense is somewhat similar. To a certain extent the cuisine is also similar. The environment is similar. Values in Pakistan and India are also similar. The difference comes in religion and in the increasing western influence. The area I belong to have some restrictions. Yep. That’s it.
Awais: This is my first visit to India. I have found a lot of things similar to that in Pakistan. According to me our dressing sense, customs and culture are similar. Even religious scenario is similar to a certain extent – there are Hindus there, there are Hindus here. There are Musalmaan there, there are Musalmaan here. The difference lies in the fact that the religions that are in majority here are in minority there and religions that are in majority here are in minority there.
Prashant: So, what are the dissimilarities?
Awais: Dissimilarity lies in the way things are rapidly changing due to western influence. Otherwise, we are 95% similar.
  We are 95% similar.
Prashant: What do people do on weekends there?
Ayesha: On weekends, people like to spend time with their families. People also hangout with their friends and go to hotels. Parties and family functions are also hosted on weekends normally.
Prashant: In Bangalore there is this ‘pub culture’. How prevalent are pubs/discos there?
Ayesha: In Karachi and in Islamabad these things, along with western influence, are developing. But in other parts of Pakistan it is not considered good.
Awais: Only in the big cities, people party on weekends. Otherwise people spend time with their family and relatives. Government employees and other employees do a little household work
Prashant: So, pubs and discos are not considered good there.
Awais: No. Not considered good.
Ayesha: No.

Prashant: In India, cricket and films are religions. People are passionate about them. Is it the same in Pakistan?
Ayesha: Cricket is valued in the same way. Film industry of Pakistan is almost dead. Indian movies are taken seriously. Hollywood movies are also viewed to a certain extent. But, mostly, people are passionate about cricket.
Prashant: During the India-Pakistan semi-finals it was almost ‘bandh’ here. Offices were closed.
Ayesha: Exactly. In Pakistan, big screens were set up to screen the matches.

 Prashant: After 9/11 there is a new term that is floating in the media – ‘Islamic terrorism’. What is your take on this?
Ayesha: Apparently, people who suffered in 9/11 are the ones who started ‘Islamic terrorism’. If anyone brought Osama Bin Laden to Afghanistan, then it was CIA. If anyone supported Taliban, then it was CIA. If 9/11 was done by Taliban, then America reaped whatever they had sowed. If there is something called ‘Islamic Terrorism’ then it is neither initiated by any Islamic scholar nor by any Islamic country. So, you cannot call it ‘Islamic’. It would have been ‘Islamic’ if it were initiated by us. It isn’t Islamic. The super powers, for its own benefits, have twisted the meaning of ‘Islam’ and presented it to the people. Basically, all the extremist/terrorist beliefs are in conflict with Islam; there is no match with Islam.
Awais: I don’t understand, ‘what is Islamic terrorism’? If the Taliban are doing suicide bombing, then my question is: If they are musalmaan, then why do they bomb a masjid? A mazaar? An imam bargah? At this point the biggest problem we have is that there a lot of suicide bombings happening in Pakistan. So, even we don’t know who these people are. According to me they are not musalmaan.
Ayesha: In fact, most of us think they are not musalmaan. Everyone says they are not musalmaan.
Awais: I had attended a national level conference in Islamabad. Pakistan government had arrested some 40 suicide bombers. The scholars who analyzed them were of the opinion that the suicide bombers were totally misguided. And Islam teaches harmony.
Ayesha: Islam actually means
Awais: ‘Salaamati’
Ayesha: ‘Salaamati’ means peace. There is no concept of terrorism in Islam.

If the Taliban are doing suicide bombing, then my question is: 'If they are musalmaan, then why do they bomb a masjid?'

Prashant: What assumptions did you have about South Asia – things that media has fed us with? Did you find any of these assumptions invalid and that the reality is something different?
Ayesha: Like other conferences this conference would also be ‘eat, meet and greet’. I had assumed this. If we have come here, then it’s only as a vacation and a waste of time. After coming here, I realized that it is not really a waste of time. One thing that we gained from here is that we got to know about people and we told people about us. If we have made a lot of friends here, it only means that we have shown a good picture. The seriousness with which each issue is discussed and the kind of speakers that are invited make me believe that the organizers really wanted to do something and the ‘Action Plan’ that we are making makes me believe that something positive is going to come from this conference.
Prashant: In our minds, we always have presumptions about people. This person will be like this and that person will be like that. Like, for Afghanistan, the image is that there is always some or the other bombing happening there. Because this is what we read about them. But after coming here, we got to know that there is life there. Did the image that media created in our minds change in this conference?
Ayesha: I had interacted with the South Asian people before so I was pretty clear. Neither India is what its government portrays nor Nepalis are outcast type of people. I had a good experience with them. They are good and very sincere people. I had also met the Sri Lankans before. This is my first meet with the Bangladeshis. I presumed that the Bangladeshis hated us. And even if they did so, they are not wrong. But after coming here I realized that they have a soft corner for us. This was my first interaction with Maldivians. This is also going great. They are very sweet people.
Awais: I agree with Ayesha. As you said that media portrays a different image, I was asked by people from all countries that everyday there is a bomb-blast in Pakistan then how do you people live? I hope that in the 5-6 days I have spent here, the misconception of people is reduced.

I presumed that the Bangladeshis hated us. And even if they did so, they are not wrong. But after coming here I realized that they have a soft corner for us.

Prashant: Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Bhutto - Benazir Bhutto - four great politicians in their own rights. How do people of Pakistan see them? We’ll take them one at a time. Gandhi?
Awais: We can’t take them one at a time. Benazir Bhutto is after…
Ayesha: She’s not in that league
Awais: Gandhi. Jinnah. Nehru. According to me these were our leaders who fought for our freedom. Initially we freedom from the British. The ‘do qaumi nazaria’ (two nation theory) came later. They fought for the whole ‘Hindustan’ – the concept of Pakistan comes later.
Prashant: Are they looked with the same reverence with which they are in India?
Awais: Absolutely. As I said, ‘do qaumi nazaria’ came later.
Prashant: But the ‘do qaumi nazaria’ came from them. It is said that Gandhi divided India.
Ayesha: Gandhi didn’t divide. Jinnah was in favor of united India and he trusted Gandhi and liked him till the end. Given the way Gandhi struggled for India – and that time we were all one. So, given the way he struggled for us also, he is our hero as well. Nehru was somewhat ‘with’ British. If Pakistan and India got partitioned and there were problems which arose after the partition, then Nehru had a role to play in them. Jinnah is our leader. Jinnah is our hero. It was the need of the hour that we separated and Jinnah realized that before anyone else. So, I appreciate his vision.
Awais: Jinnah is the greatest. As for Gandhi, Gandhi had his own way of doing things. He got his demands fulfilled through ‘aman’ (non-violence). Look at his campaigns. He worked his way through ‘aman’ and without bloodshed.
Ayesha: After the partition also, in the context of sharing resources with Pakistan – where Nehru and British were creating a little problem, Gandhi was the person who protest for Pakistan that it gets its resources. Gandhi, basically, was a person who wasn’t biased and understood the need of the hour. The problems were created by politicians who came after him. If the things were in his and Jinnah’s hand then the relationship would have been very good.
Jinnah was in favor of united India
Prashant: Coming to Benazir Bhutto…
Awais: She was the first female prime minister.
Prashant: What about her assassination? It appeared that she was going to come to power.
Ayesha: First of all, one thing to appreciate about her is that she took over her father’s party at a very crucial time. It was a big thing. At that time, not even in India or in the west, women weren’t strong enough to lead the whole party. What made her a ‘hero’ was not her personal capability. She started off her father’s work. She didn’t create her own identity. The first identity of Benazir Bhutto was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The government of Benazir Bhutto was one of the most corrupt governments of Pakistan. The perception of people is that when she spent her interim time in Dubai, she had changed her mind and she had become better. Maybe, if she would have gotten a chance again she would have been good. But since she didn’t get a chance how can I assume that she was good? As for her assassination… there is some confusion in Pakistan. However, it appears that though her assassination was blamed on Taliban, the current President, her husband, was involved in it. In Pakistan and India and in our region, the government which comes to power is not the one that the  'awaam' wants. The government which comes to power is the one that the super powers want. So, maybe, it was a game. Most probably, it was a game.

The government which comes to power is not the one that the 'awaam' wants. The government which comes to power is the one that the super powers want.

[Stay tuned for more on dictatorship in Pakistan and on 26/11.

If you have any queries regarding lives of aam admi in Pakistan and their view on things, do drop in your question below and I'll try to get them answered. Also note that the above comments are not from any Pakistani government official. They are from common citizens ]

PS: Thanks VikramAdith Raman for suggesting the title of this post and giving inputs on the formatting!

Edited later: The second part of the interview is here

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The McKinsey Way: Book Review

McKinsey is a very big brand in both the consulting and non-consulting world. If someone has heard of just one management consulting company, it would be McKinsey & Company. In fact I have heard people leaving a better paying job for McKinsey. Such is a brand of McKinsey. And when I came across The McKinsey Way by Ethan M. Rasiel, I couldn't help but read it. The McKinsey Way appeared to be a self-help book. I don't generally read self-help books (especially after reading The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma). But the buzz around this book like anything else related to McKinsey drove me towards reading it.

The book is divided into five parts. The first part talks about how to think about business problems. It mentions a few frameworks to represent the problem. These frameworks helps in looking at different aspects of the problem and attribute importance to each factor. The second part of the book talks about what actually goes into solving a problem - gathering a team, brainstorming, conducting interviews, researching and managing hierarchy - and how to do them effectively. The third part of the book deals with selling the solution while the fourth and the fifth part touches upon 'how to survive at McKinsey' and 'life after McKinsey'.

If there is one centralized theme of the book and one take-away from the book, both explicit and implicit, it's STRUCTURE. Right from the anecdotes mentioned in the book to the way in which the book is written - everything is structured. Rasiel describes the importance of structuring anything and everything - thoughts, email, presentation. Another theme that I found through out the book is 'putting yourself in other person's shoe'. He talks about elevator pitches where a consultant has very short time to sell his idea. If he has structured his solution and thinks form the client's perspective - chances are high that he would be able to sell his idea.

Leafing through the less-than-200 pages, one also forms an idea about the life of a McKinsey-ite. Rasiel reinforces that generally held notion that consultants put in real long hours. He also mentions about the crazy travel one has to undertake and its impact on the family life. Another thing that can be inferred from the book is that the consulting world has really high attrition so much so that it has become 'normal'. To quote from the book - "As one former McKinsey-ite told me (Rasiel), leaving McKinsey is never a question of whether - it's a question of when. We used to say that the half-life of a class of new associates is about two years - by the end of that time, half will have left the Firm." Attrition in the consulting world is one thing i want to write on, but in due time.

The book is an easy read. Rasiel has used McKinsey jargon profusely throughout the book. However he has explained them before using them. For people who have not used 'frameworks' in their work, it's a good introduction to the usefulness of frameworks. The book is designed such that one can start from any chapter and still make sense out of it. One needn't go cover-to-cover. However, I would recommend reading it from cover-to-cover.

Overall, the book makes a good read for a three hour flight or drive. It reinforces a lot of commonsensical yet very important things - especially structuring ones thoughts and communication. For people mulling a career in consulting - this book could be your yet another source of information about the consulting world.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aruna Shanbaug: It's my life

I am now qualified as a senior citizen. I would have got tax exemption on 2.5 lakh of my salary and concession in the railways as well. But then, things don't always work as planned. Like a lot of senior citizens, I don't earn anything to get any tax exemption. And I don't go anywhere. Nowhere. I have seen people living in the slums of Dharavi where each person gets about 20 sq ft of space to live. I live in almost equal space - the only difference is that I don't move. In fact, I can't move and haven't moved by myself for last 37 years. Some people call me soul. Some call me life. Some call me sub-conscious. A few techies these days even call me the software. I am the 'real person' within the body of the most popular living nurse in India, Aruna Shanbaug. I am the 'red' of the Aruna. I am the 'shaan' of the Shanbaug. I am the the real Aruna Shanbaug.

I was always amazed at the hegemony of the mankind. Man decides which animals to rear and which to kill. Man decides which plants to grow. Man not only decides the fate of plants and animals but also of other people. Today, it was my turn. My fate was to be decided. Whether I would live or die was to be decided by a few people. I didn't commit any crime. On the contrary, I am a victim. But still. They would decide whether I would live or die.

Through all these last 37 years, Pinki has been my best friend. She really cares for me. But one thing that hurts me the most is the pain Pinki is going through. Pinki is in pain because she can't see me suffering through the agony. She can't see me bearing the pain for 37 years. And she fights for a very noble cause - of giving me freedom from my sufferings. These days, while the children send their parents to old-age homes, Pinki has been by my side. I'll be indebted to her throughout my 'life' and beyond - if there's anything after life.

But I am brave. I am full of life. I believe in miracles, science and the divine power. I believe that I will see the light of the day. I'll eat the best of fish and listen to Aamir Khan's 'O palan hare' composed by A R Rahman and written by Javed Akhtar. I believe that the medical science will make enough progress that I would be treated. If not tomorrow, next year. If not next year - after ten years. I want to live.

We consider committing suicide a crime. A person cannot even attempt to take his own life even though he is suffering from insurmountable mental stress. But when it comes to my case - no one even bothered to know what I want - whether I want to live or die. But I can't blame them. How would they know what I want? I have no way to communicate to them that I want to live, that i want to go through this pain and hope that someday I can move by myself. After all, it's the hope that keeps everyone alive and motivates people to persevere. Didn't the "mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams" boy who was expelled form school grow up to become Albert Einstein? It is hope. Hope - that made they kept going. I believe that medical science would make enough progress in the next few years that I'll recover. And despite what the doctors say - I have hope and faith that I shall be back. And my wish is that I want to live - live till I can possibly live.

Today a few supreme people on the bench decided my future. I shall live. I don't know if I need to thank them to give me something that is as much mine as anything can get - my life.  But, nevertheless, I'll thank them for not taking away what they could have. It's my life and let me and only me decide what's enough for me and how much I can bear. If I am not able to communicate it to you, please leave me to myself.

Please don't show mercy on me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

From pictures of pets and ousting Mubarak to ...?

In 2005, very few people knew social media. They then slowly started using it to share their lives with their friends. And by 2011, they have an integral role in ousting Ben Ali and Mubarak. The thought of where the social media would be in 2015 is overwhelming. I asked a few friends of mine for their views on the state of social media 5 years down the line and here's what they have to say:

"What do you think is the future of social media? Where do you see it 5 years down the line?"

Maliha Mariyam: Social media is a communication platform. As the world economy is changing the way ppl use it will change. It will revolutionize a few more industries - like it has already revolutionized - books, retail, travel. Banking is on the way. It's going to be interesting 5 years.

Olivia Mukhopadhyay: The social media is getting better everyday so 5 years down the line it is going to still remain a great mode of communication and it will play a bigger role in advertisement and brand building. We can see emergence of corporate networks for people to direct their questions and grievances and social media will form a bigger role in opinion formation. It will eventually affect politics and maybe open up better policy discussions the same thing normal media should do but cant because they have got to run a business social forum is more open less personal and hence provides a good platform for people to speak up.

Harshika Nahar: It's future still seems to be gloomy. Today the youth have the intelligence to judge,and react, comment but that's it. Given the impact social media may have, most governments would ban it - as is seen in China. Just commenting on a national issue would not matter unless there's someone who would really take action on it. it's just written, "liked", commented and forgotten.

Mithun Karmakar: FBI is going to use it to screw you. Keeping an eye on what you post or share. They might use that information to form your profile; A matter of privacy, I mean. Social media is making the world know about you more - a bit too much. Remember the blackberry case in US? Common people don't always care about what others might use this information for.

It might start voicing people's opinion in a structured manner. Like govt polls on important issues, election polls, etc.

We can already see blogs, mails etc are already integrated into one Google account. This integration is going to be even widespread in simpler words one networks for all your internet needs.

Facebook started with hot chicks pics but now has taken the shape of what we see it now.. if it had stuck to that i don't think it would have crossed the great oceans. While Twitter has become more of a shouting tool than social network.

Pallav Jhawar: Social media is replacing traditional advertising, replacing traditional ways of reading and sharing news, replacing traditional ways in which NGOs raise funds, putting something like RTI on the web. i can go on and on. Five years down the line, it would be possible to take a video of yourself saying something like had a great lunch pointing to your lunch and upload it as a status on Facebook.

I ask the same question to my readers - what do you think is the future of social network is? Where do you see it heading five years down the line? For a change, I'll reserve my comments for a later post

Disclaimer: The comments mentioned above are the sole responsibility of their writers. The accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed.

PS: The interviewees were not given any time to prepare for the interview. In fact they didn't have any clue that I would conduct an interview. The question was asked to them at 1:30 am and they are required to give answers off the top of their head. The answers published are uncensored and picked from chat window - so please pardon the grammatical errors!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Revolt of 1857

[Disclaimer: All characters, places, institutes, organizations and incidents appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to any real persons (living or dead), places (not even India, Tunisia and Egypt), institutes, organizations and incidents is purely coincidental. ]

Flitter and Chasebook, two information sharing tools, were developed in the early 1850 in the USA. In no time they had become immensely popular throughout the world. By 1852, almost 3% of the Indian subcontinent had access to Flitter or Chasebook.

In 1854 Royal Small Arms Factory started producing a new, long rifle which would help the British Army in a bayonet fight. The rifle was extensively used in the Crimean war and was later introduced in the British colonies. Mangal, a soldier in the Bengal Native Infantry heard that the cartridges used in these rifles were greased with pork or beef fat. He started fleeting (messages updated through ‘Flitter’ are called ‘fleets’ and the act is called ‘fleeting’) against the East India Company on Flitter and created a page on Chasebook to protest against the introduction of such rifle. His messages were read by his fellow soldiers in Bengal and started getting agitated. His family and friends back home in Uttar Pradesh also joined the Chasebook page. Soon, the soldiers of all the regiments under the East India Company became aware of the insensitivity of the East India Company towards the Indian sensibilities. The soldiers in all the regiments started protesting against the use of the Enfield Rifles. Bakht Khan developed a training routine and videos for the sepoys in Meerut and shared it through Chasebook with the other regiments. The Madras Army and the Bombay army were also facing racism as the soldiers were not given higher ranks despite their qualifications.

In the civil society, Fleets and Chasebook feeds had been floating around about the Company’s attempt to convert the population of India which was then predominantly Hindu and Muslim into Christian. In fact, the few progressive measures taken by the Company – like abolishing Sati system and widow-remarriage – were looked upon with suspicion by the people.

The Company, in the name of ‘taxes’ started looting India of its gold, jewels, silk, cotton, etc. A Zamindari system was introduced which burdened the farmers with unprecedented taxes. A lot of them were forced to switch to farming commercial crops like indigo, jute, coffee and tea. This reduced the supply of food crops and hence there was a scarcity of food which led to price rise of the food crop. The poor could no longer afford food. Thousands of workers lost job when the handlooms closed down due to competition from the cheap factory made goods. Essentially, everyone in India was directly impacted by the oppression of the Company.

Let’s come back to the rebelling sepoys. Mangal was preparing to revolt against the Company and tried teaching a couple of Europeans a lesson. He was however arrested and sentence to death. Sohan in Kolkata got the fleet about Mangal’s death and re-fleeted it. Soon the incident became viral on the social media. Laxmi, the queen of Jhansi, who was ousted by the Company also created mass awareness through her Chasebook notes. Nana Sahib, Tantia Tope, Jwala Pershad organized protests in Cawnpore.

People in all parts of the country – in Lahore, in Madras, in Dhaka, in Oudh, in Jodhpur - took to the street. Hridayanath, a resident of Shyambazar, Bengal Presidency, created a Chasebook event to assemble at the Chandni Chauk to protest against the Company. All his friends and their friends and their friend’s friends joined the cause. Several other ‘squares’ were identified in the country where people would assemble for their ‘liberation’. There was a mass uprising. Ajmal, from Faridkot, took a rifle and open fired at the Company officials until he was arrested. Baanya, who stayed in Mizoram had his Chasebook wall flooded with updates form friends who were “showing off” by sharing the news of their heroic deeds in chasing the Company out. ‘Fleets’ of the news of Lakshmi’s, Tantia and others success started becoming viral and a Baanya, a Raghunathan, and an Ajmal started drawing motivation from them and joined the protest against the Company.

By the time the Company realized the intensity of the protest and blocked Chasebook and Flitter, the uprising had moved out of the hand and had spiral out. Mass protests in every nook and corner of the country eventually led to an end of Company’s close to 100 years of exploitation. India became one of the first few countries in the world to be free.

Getting live updates about the development in India, people from Sri Lanka, Hongkong and a host of other colonies started their protest movements. The freedom movement by India had a domino effect and by 1867, 10 years after Mangal's first ‘fleeted’ about the Enfield Rifles, all the colonies directly or indirectly under the Great Britain got freedom

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