Who is he? is he some kind of super human who has knowledge on every subject? Is he even from this planet?

Chances are, if you watch India 60 minutes on NDTV 24×7  regularly, surely the same questions would have crossed your mind. There are harldy any days when his comments dont appear on the show. His views and comments could be often be categorised as average- socialist- populist-protectorOfIndianCulture-proDeathPenalty-IndianRightWing but so are the rest of those scrolling comments on NDTV, or for that matter any other news channel. What makes thyagu special is his urge to SMS his views everyday, without fail, no matter how different the topics are. The only other person I know with such immense knowledge is Rahul Bose. Only Mr.Bose could give his views on anything from political to entertainment to sports and culture. Has he completely forgotten that he is just an actor? And the funny thing is, even Rahul Bose makes his intelligence available exclusively to NDTV? Is there any pact between NDTV and Indian intellects? If so why wasnt’ I given a call?

Anyway to answer one of life’s biggest mysteries, the origin of Thyagu, I need a small favor from people who are reading this. Please put up this question mark image on your blog/site/profile etc and link it to this post. I’m sure through the comments on this page we would surely be able to identify him. No, i’m not tricking you into increasing my view counts. This is a genuine cause to find out the most intelligent person in India, besides me, of course.

thyagu from chennai

Nope, it hasn’t rained yet, still 15 mins left to midnight, but the chances of this blog becoming #1 is far greater than the chances for a shower before midnight. It has been a day of personal triumph. Let me explain to you whats happening here. Come August and you just cant bear the festive spirit of chennai, its just too much to handle. There are loud speakers tied to every lamp post that keep playing really really awful devotional songs. Yes i’m talking about the mariamman (said to be a form a goddess Durga) festival that is usually held in the first sunday of August. The speciality is that unlike other festivities like ganesh chaturthi or diwali, people celebrate this festival by walking on fire. Like this guy right here

fire walking idiot

Whats funny is that anyone can do it. You, me or even jimmy there (i’m talking abt christians etc). Even more funnier is the fact that they dont walk, they run, run like wildboars. Its a scary site to see, and some get pushed down. There have quite a few accidents here, but nothing too serious. The interesting part is that, for the last 5 or 6 years, everytime this arcane ritual happens here, it always rains that night. My mom always attributes it to the divine power of god. I have tried to explain to her that it could for any number of reasons

1.It could be that the smoke from the burning wood, causes a micro-climatic change, and since this ritual actually takes place at many parts of chennai during the same day, it might cause rain throughout the city. (Vague i know, but it could happen)

2. A conspiracy theory,  I sometimes suspect that they fire some kind of rockets (the firecracker ones), that bring in artificial rain. (Yeah, i’ll come up with anything to prove them wrong).

3. More widely accepted is that it rains beacause its monsoon season.

Inspite of the above arguements, I’ve somehow felt like I’ve been losing the argument everytime it rains. But today,  it dint and I feel like the losing battle has been won in one swift blow.

Update: Midnight has passed, yippie!

The Hindu, A Lefty?

August 4, 2007

the hindu news paper

It doesn’t suprise me that much, to see New York Times labelling “The Hindu” as left wing,  it just comes as a mild shock.  I was reading about Dr.Ron Paul’s Times front page article, when i came across this line

Paul is surely the only congressman who would cite the assertion of the left-leaning Chennai-based daily The Hindu that “the world is being asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to strengthen its economic hegemony.”

Wow, now this is the Times man, branded by some as Left-Wing elitist paper, calling our Hindu, left leaning. Certainly things will never be the same from tomorrow morning. I guess the ads and the obituary column (my favorite, as always) are the only sections i’m gonna be going through. I should’ve known when they let that socialist/Maoist Keshav do all the caricature cartoons, and how their OP-Eds sometimes greatly supported that moron Chavez even when he is proclaiming himself as the emperor of Venezuela. I regret that,  it dint even strike me when N.Ram got Chomsky and Stigltz to give their famous anti-Globalisation talks here in Chennai. Bad Bad Editor! But I guess its my fault too, i failed to see the big statutory warning right on the front page.

Jus Kidding!  I always knew they were leaning left, and the other paper i read , ET,  is at the opposite of the spectrum. I believe the human mind should be wooed by both wings, and left alone for sometime to ponder which one is idiotic and which one is practical. I just thought getting mentioned in the NY Times is worth blogging

Long Live Dress Code

August 3, 2007

big brother

You read that right, dress code lives long, never dies, right from our time in school, through our days in college to the work we do now. Got pulled up for dress code again this week. My supervisor told me that I wasnt’ wearing a wacky tacky tie on monday and said that it was a gross violation of their “make-mondays-even-more-pathetic” policy. Really, it just pisses me off totally everytime someone tells me I’m not dressed properly. Already I feel I’m becoming one of those 9-5 (or midnight sometimes) software guys who look forward to friday, those thank god its friday types. My mondays are always blue, with each monday bluer than the one before. Life just moves at the slowest pace on a monday and to top all this off, I’m required to wear a tie. I have to confess that I still don’t know how to knot one and that I never usually remove the knot if someone had done it for me. The only tie I have, had been knotted on october 9th, that was the day i joined the company. I cant even remember where it lies now, probably someone took it, my friends have this funny habbit of taking my belongings without my knowledge.  So as she was telling me about it, I was kinda burning with rage for a few seconds there, but quickly cooled myself off and told her how I really felt uncomfortable wearing a tie. She gave the usual reply that clients from abroad often visit the office and how they usually like it when people working for them (yes, indirectly we work for them)  wear a tie. There were two things I wanted to make it clear to her. First, “what clients?” During my work there I had never seen even one of their clients. The office has this big welcome board displayed in the reception once in 2 months or so, indicating that a client is coming that day, but rarely do we ever see him/her, unless ofcourse they’re invisible. That could explain everything, including why i feel like I’m being watched everytime I read blogs from office. But being a product of science I could never adhere to the theory of invisible clients. So it had to be that clients visit very infrequently and even if they ever come here, they rarely come to work area. Second, how did they arrive at this conclusion that clients like an employee who wears a tie? Questions, I could never actually ask her.  I dint want to be so direct, after all it actually wasn’t her intention to pull me out for dress code. The complaint, I heard came from HR. Those pathetic a*holes, they have the most easiest work in the world, but all they do is play big brother with the employees. Probably thats part of their job too, but its the part I despise. I told my supervisor that I would like to talk the to guy from where the complaint came (I’m pretty sure who it is) but she said that it was not part of the problem. The problem was that I was not adhering to that archaic policy called ‘dress code’. She told me that I was still stuck in my college days and that I should be more “professional”. ‘Hold on’, i thought, actually it was in college where all these dress codes applied right? Hmmm, now who’s still stuck in the college days? Finally I told her that I had read too many libertarian literature, that taught me about my basic birth rights, the right to freedom of expression and speech etc and that it is not in me to “take these rules”. I mean it, I really said that, come to think of it now I can’t stop laughing at myself. Now,  I could sense that she din’t really like my reply. I paused for sometime, then I thought, “why am I so mean to her?” She was indeed just a messenger, conveying whatever the HR people told her. So i told her that I’ll consider it and may be wear it from next monday. That was all that she wanted to hear, after that the conversation quickly moved into a more technical note, about the days work etc.
It irritates me a lot when I come to think of why schools, colleges, and even corporations insist on a dress code. I mean, we don’t usually come wearing threatening costumes. I have never seen anyone coming to my office wearing shorts or ultra casual clothing even on the so called “casual fridays”. Software people, especially the ones in big corporations, usually dress very conservatively. Casual to us is jeans and t-shirts not 18 pocketed cargos topped off with a wife-beater . Still people are always bent on implementing dress codes and I just don’t understand the basis for that. Why? Because it can somehow improve productivity? Bear with me please for those technical words. Are these foreign clients psychologically or for that matter culturally inclined towards outsourcing their work only to companies whose employees show with up ties? I guess not, they usually offshore the work to whichever company that can deliver the project at the cheapest rate with the optimum quality. Or even if thats the case, why only on mondays? Why have they chosen that god forsaken day and ignored the rest. Do clients usually turn up on mondays? I’m always left with nothing but unanswered questions. Whenever I wear a tie on a monday it feels like a tight noose around my neck. I could prove it to you that mondays are my worst productive days, the minutes I spend staring at the screen without doing any work is more than any other day. The tie would just add fuel to that raging monday fire because I’m not that relaxed or cozy wearing one. Boy if only I had my own company, I would gladly allow my employees to wear whatever they want. They could even turn up in bikini’s, probably they would get extra perks for that, you know. Sheesh I’m just dreaming too much these days. The point is, the more freedom you give to your employees the more productive they become. The whole of the austrian school talks nothing but freedom, liberty and how it encourages more production and in turn higher profits. I always wonder if I’m the only one bitching about dress code or if there are a whole bunch like me, except that they’re two time losers who don’t have a blog. When we were in school we had this uniform which took our self expression away, college was supposed to be like the way movies showed it to us, but the sad part was that there too, we had dress codes (more about my college dress codes in a later post) and finally when you thought work was going to be different, a very creative and a free environment, it ends up being no more different than the others. Hmmm, enough said, have to find my tie now, wonder who stole it!

Bribing our way out

July 27, 2007

It happened again, though after a long time, I jumped a signal and landed right into mama’s arms. He was ready waiting for me and at once snatched the keys off, a grandiose violation of my property rights.  Clearly I misjudged that I could somehow push myself through the last few seconds of the singal. I really have to tell you the about at the amazing speed, efficiency these mamas work in extracting the bribe. Last time I was caught for jumping a signal it was around close to a year and half ago. Back then it was just a single mama who in my opinion was a bit less experienced. He let me off with just a warning that warning proved to be useful for a whole year and a half. But yesterday was different, this was a major signal, there were 4 mamas, a sergeant (the one with white cap), two of his henchmen, each posted at different signals of the junction, and finally the one who does the actual talking and the collection work. The first act, as you know, is that the guy snatches your key away, which is something they are clearly not authorized to do. After that he sends you the collection agent and he proceeds to fish for another victim. Now I have to tell the guy who he sent me to was a professional. No wonder he got assigned to this major signal (I heard that there’s a lotta competition for main signals). He proceeds to write something in a big file sheet with zillions of coulumns. In one of them he writes FSS. That was, I guess, intended to tell me that he is bent on booking a case. Now I dont know what it stands for but I’m sure it is not even remotely connected to my identity or identifies my vehicle or anything like that. We move on to the first major phase. This guys talks fast, you can see that he’s no amateur, this guy has done his time, honed by several such cases. He wants to waste no time. I thought I was gonna end up paying some heavy amount. He then asked for my license, though I’m a license carrying bike rider, I dont usually give the license to the mamas when they ask for it, for it is the license that identifies you. Once your license it is in his hands it’s almost over, your in his pockets. So I plead with him, yes I did. “Please sir”, those were the only two words that I kept saying. You could say I am someone with no self respect, but neither was the mama. If it was his job to lure me into bribing, it was my job to beat the system, no matter what. So I had to “please sir” him for a while, it dint hurt me a bit. What would’ve hurt me the most is paying 100 bucks or more to him as bribe. It would’ve arose a great deal of guilt in me because,

a. It is an amount of Rs.100 which is of great value to me, hell I can get a happy meal (beer+biryani) with some change left.

b. It is an act of bribery, why should I pay 100 bucks to some unknown prick who is supposed to keep the road safe.

  Anyway I kept playing along. After tired of trying to get hold of my license, he finally gave up and moved to phase2. This is the extortion phase, the first being the terrorise phase. But before phase1 and phase2 the guy gave me sometime to move the money in my wallet. That is the first thing you do, get all the money in your wallet to your ticket pocket (sometimes you would be asked to empty your normal pockets, so it’s safe to push it in the ticket pocket). What mama did next amazed me. He took a xerox (photocopy) of news item from some Tamil newspaper and showed it to me. It read ‘Jumping signal will cost Rs.1000 fine from now’, in Tamil of course. I know it to be as a newspaper from its layout and font, no government circular or memo looks that way. The guys tells me that I will be fined for Rs.1000 and asks “is it ok?” I told to myself “c’mon what is he doing? Bargaining the fine amount?” In fact he was indeed bargaining the bribe. I said I dont have any money and showed my wallet with 10 bucks plus change in it (never completely empty wallet, they might not believe you). So he advises me to get 100 (or 10% as he says) from friends family etc. I replied that I’ve come from far away and that’s the only amount I have. He gives the sergeant a look. The sergeant signals back that I’m just a waste of time and that he should move on. The guy then proceeds to coolly take the only 10 rupee note from my wallet and hands over my key. Just to make it look like they are not fucking scavengers haggling for a mere 10 buck, he orders me to get 40 bucks more soon. We both knew that I wont be returning, but he had to say that to make sure I dont think low of him. So I was off, for a mere 10 bucks. I wouldn’t exactly call that a victory, I did actually give Rs.10 to him, but I did beat the system. I dint pay the hefty fine.

 The thing is that I’m not a socially irresponsible citizen for not paying fine. It’s actually got more to do with the fact that the fine for jumping a signal is just too much. Too much that no one would actually want to pay them, and they will finally settle with bribing the mama for a lesser amount say, 10% (mamas talk in % these days). That’s where the system fails miserably. It was actually thought that raising the fine amount will increase traffic discipline, but the fact is the traffic violations remain the same because most of them are just accidents, acts of negligence. What happened to me was that I jumped the signal accidentally, yes it was my misjudgment, and I would gladly pay the fine for that, if it were within the limits. I just cant pay Rs.1000 for mere misjudgment, no one was hurt, nothing serious happened that demanded 1000 bucks from me. So I had to talk my way out of this situation. You could argue that to prevent them from taking bribe the govt could imprison whoever gives or takes bribe. Valid point, but the funny thing is that such a law actually exists and the fact that it is still not imposed strictly speaks for the very fact that such a law cannot be imposed strictly at all. It will only lead to corruption at a higher level. Suppose me and mama were arrested by the vigilance squad at that very moment he took the Rs.10 note, we both would have to end up paying the vigilance squad a bigger amount to get off. How can you be sure that vigilance will not accept bribe? If the people assigned to protect and serve people take bribe, it is only natural that people assigned to tackle corruption will themselves take bribe. Also it will prove very difficult for those people to be vigil everywhere and every time. What are they? the omnipotent God? None of this can happen. The only way to beat corruption is not by imposing penalties or imprisonment but only by NOT GIVING CHANCE for it to exist. Imagine if the fine was 50 or 100 bucks, it still is a considerable amount for most folks but they would indeed pay it and stick it to the mama. No one really wants bribe the police if the fines are reasonable. Most folks hate giving money to police or any authority for that matter. Paying 50 or 100 as fine for jumping a signal will definitely raise a flag in my brain, so the next time it will judge more carefully in trying to pass a signal during those last few seconds, thats how you do it. Instead, now I’m pretty confident that the next time any mama catches me for signal jumping I would be able to talk my way out of it. Well I could only hope the govt recognizes the extreme stupidity of its laws and did something about it, until then people like me and you will just try to bribe our way out.

 Note:For who are not from chennai, mama=Traffic police and that stuff about omnipotent God, that was just a joke. God is not omnipotent, he’s just your imagination.

Scared? who me?

July 12, 2007

Today will go down in history as the day swamy ever tasted fear, was for ever afraid of nature’s fury. Yes, this evening had been some sort of life changing phase for me. Ok i’ll cut the bullshit, but to tell you the truth I was oozing adrenaline out of my nose today. So what trigerred this abnormal reaction to this otherwise strong superhuman?
 Well today was one of those most vicious, scary, bone chilling display of natures fury that I’ve ever witnessed. It exactly isnt a big tornado (I aint exactly dorothy), nor a flash flood, it was the one hour of awe inspiring lightning and thunder that pounded chennai for atleast couple of hours. The story goes like this. The evening was really pleasant,  I was returning home from spencers and I could sense that it was going to rain. I was carrying my laptop and so had to rush home before the shower started, but that bitch nature beat me to that. So I was stranded on the side of the road for a good 15 mins. After that the intensity of the rain had come down and so I resumed my journey home. When I got home,  I plugged in the laptop and was surfing as usual when all of a sudden the first scenes of a thirller movie were begining to be played. There was nothing unusual about it at first, windows banging, occasional lightning that you always wanted to look straight into, but were very afraid to, because you’ve seen in so many bad indian movies how a lighting could render you blind forever. Temperature dropped drastically, the room had a pleasant feel to it, and for once I dint feel the heat from my laptop. Thats when it happened, the brightest streak until now ripped the sky open and making it scream as if the sky had been stabbed. I remebered the old chinese proverb just then “whenever there’s any thunderstorm, the first thing to do is to turn off your laptop, TV and other electrical items”. I haven’t stuck to this rule before because I’ve personally never seen any TVs being blown out or etc. To me it was some urban legend that usually happened to your friends friend or some house the street next. I wanted was to get a first hand glimpse of what was actually happening out there, so I stepped out and looked up. Just then, without any warning i saw the badest, meanest streak of light in my life, it was powerful, roaring and unmerciful. I guess ‘raw’ would be another good way to describe it. Imagine you are Paris Hilton who’s just been released from jail facing a swarm of papparazzis with the brightest, most poweful flashes, now multiply that flash by atleast a 20 (yeah I dont want to exaggerate), that’s how bright it was. For the next minute or two I could see the typical lightning rod image wherever i looked. After that I got into the house and cursed myself for being such a careless asshole. Thats when I got a call from my sister. You see she just given birth to my beautiful niece three days ago. She wanted me to get her something to eat since the canteen food in the hospital sucked ass. I told her how the condition was outside but i could sense that she wasnt excatly in the mood to listen to all that. She was in a closed air conditioned room, sealed completely from the outside world, so she had no idea what was going on. I told her it would take atleast an hour before I even think of venturing out. She obvisouly was pissed off with my attitude, all she could see was that she was one poor hungry young mother and I was the lazy bum with no good work. But had she witnessed that grand spectalcle, would she be expecting the same? I thougt for a second. Right then, right there, BAM! I just could not write how I felt at that time, the most bad ass of them all struck directly inclose proximity to my house. I say that with so much conviction because the thunder that followed it had the clear tell tale sings of Apocalypse. Yup, for a second there, I did fear for my life, why lie? not for a second, the fear lasted for some minutes. I gathered myself after that, tried to maintain calm and my sanity. But what I had seen was only the first of the two part installement from hell. Within just five minutes, it struck again, with the same vigor, power and might. Since we only die once,  I did not feel the same way I felt for the prequel but nonetheless I could not just take another. I wanted to call my sister, I reached for the landline, but it was dead, indicating the magnitude of the situation. I decided it would be a good reason to shut the windows and remain calm inside. This is exactly where your belief system will help you out, but to some helpless atheist like me, who had no prayers to offer, it was proving to be too much of an ordeal. Also I could not console myself that it was all the part of god’s short temper . To me, there was no heaven in waiting if i were to die in a million volt shock. I had to somehow collect myself and get ready for the mean task of getting food to my sis.
 I waitied for half an hour for it all to settle down and for peace to reign in again. It was still drizzling outside, but half an hour after that incident I was much more mature and devoid of fear. So I kicked my bike to start it. I was suprised to find that it started with just 3 kicks than the usual 5, even on the hottest days this was not possbile. Was this a clear sign from ‘Him’ that my odyssey to the hotel to get dinner for my sis would be devoid of any danger? Yeah right, enough of my sarcasm. I glided through the wet roads, high on the chilly breeze and balls stiff due to the temperature. I rode extra slow to the hotel. I’m an exceptionally slow driver, since most of my thinking is done on the bike or when i’m in loo, but at that time I was driving very well below the daily normal. I guess the main attraction of driving on a wet road is the mind blowing lights show. The wet road reflects the brake lights, the neon billboards, the the street lamp and oh! what a great sight it was. I’ve not seen the northern lights but I could say it was as close to that. That wet road was as enthralling as the light show in pink floyd’s “echoes”(the concert, not song). Soon i forgot all about the fury and the drama and was one with the lights, lost in strech of a continous rainbow.
 Could i say this was a life changing incident? not at all, but it was a good experience that I would not forget until say tomorrow. But come to think of it all now after a long 3 hours, was i really scared back then? hmmm may be.

 It has been bothering me for quite sometime to write about 1989 tiananmen uprising in China. For those who do not have any clue about it, let me just brief you. The communist party of China(CPC) came to power in 1949 after it defeated the right-wing KMT in the Chinese civil war. After that the whole of China was unified under a single party system and strict authoritarian government came into control. But after years of oppression and after many ruthless atrocities committed against its own people, the Chinese government were faced with a an extraordinary challenge, one they had never contemplated on. This was the student uprising at the tiananmen square in Beijing, which sent shockwaves through the Chinese politburo. The government had only two choices, either to acknowledge that there was a growing hatred for the government and its policies or to crush the revolt with an iron hand. The government vowed to crush the revolt and sent hundreds of troops to Beijing and the square looked like a army base within couple of days. The people were very cooperative at first, some even handed out flowers to the soldiers and politely ask to reason out why they had been stationed against them. But soon the constant sight of the tanks and guns just proved to be too much for the ordinary citizen and violence broke out. But the soldiers did not even hesitate a bit to fire at 100’s of unarmed civilians who had just assembled to voice their protest against a tyrannical government in the first place. The days that followed witness some of history’s most shocking massacre’s which is no less than a genocide. These were Chinese soldiers mind you, not some mercenaries or soldiers from enemy countries. Commanding soldiers to fire upon fellow citizens is no ordinary task, for this they need to be meticulously be trained to see people as only targets without any attachment, kindness or guilt. That was exactly what the Chinese govt achieved, and boy! i must say what a great achievement that was. Within 4 days the entire uprising was crushed and the death toll estimates ranged between a mere 200 (according to CPC) to 7000 (according to US Nato estimates).

Coming back to why i was so bent on writing about this was that i saw a great documentary on PBS Frontline. Like any other Frontline documentary this was straight to the core, no gimmicks, no michael moorisms, no soundtrack, just solid hardcore reporting. It was called Gates of heaven. What struck me the most was when the reporter asked a group of students in Beijing what they thought about this iconic tank man photo.

the tank man

the tankman at square

Now the tankman was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 20 revolutionaries of the 20th century along with Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, but those poor students at the Beijing school did not have the slightest clue what it was all about. The documentary told how the Chinese govt had worked very cautiously to censor any images of the tankman (run a search in google China about tankman and you get vague irrelevant results) and how they have successful altered history. All these were reminiscent of an Orwellian society the Chinese lived in. People there did not have even a faint knowledge about their past or their inherent powers as individuals. Then i had an epiphany, what the documentary failed to report was the fact the not only could they recognize the tankman, but they were unable to make out an act of rebellion. When he showed the pictures to the students, they had no idea what the character in photo was up to. One student even asked whether it was some kind of parade. Clearly to you and me, if we look at that picture, even if we had no prior knowledge of that fateful protest, we would correctly identify it as an act of rebellion, but the poor students could not even decipher what was going on. That is the unfortunate triumph of communism. How the Chinese govt erased one of the bravest uprising in its history fails in comparison to what they had indeed achieved with their mind control tactics. It is as if they had given a mass lobotomy to their students so that they know nothing but compliance to authority. What is so great about a country which is branding itself as the next dominant economic superpower if its citizens are nothing more than mere zombies without voice, freewill and free thought?