Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Festive Times

The Good Ol' Christmas Tree is back for the season in Bloomberg compound

Time 23rd Nov, 17:30
Place Bloomberg Tower, NY

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Colbert Report - A Sampler (11/10/09)

For those who don't watch this show, this is a good place to start. One of the best episodes in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another absurdity of Manhattan

Gratuity: something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service; especially tip.

This is how Webster dictionary defines the word gratuity. And this is the most common sense meaning of a tip or a gratuity. It has to be volunary. Now I agree that there are gratuity etiquette. You normally give 15% or more as a tip in restaurant or any such service that you receive. But New York city has a way with twisting definitions and meanings.

I went to The Olive Garden restaurant at Times Square in midtown Manhattan a couple of days ago with a friend who was visiting US for the first time. Olive Garden is famous for its overly courteous (read nosy and interfering) waiters and high end (read unnecessarily expensive) dining experience. But what got me the most this time was the bill we got at the end. The restaurant had already added 15% mandatory 'gratuity' to the total. And if this was not enough to piss of customers, there was an additional blank field for 'Extra gratuity' !! My friend was taken aback by these crazy customs of the NY city. And there was just one thing I could say to him. 'Welcome to The City, my friend'.

A Dangerous Trend

Continuing the dangerous trend of narrow minded regionalism, Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan said that more importance should be given to Marathis in employment in Maharashtra.
This is extremely disturbing. I was not much worried about comments made by Shiv Sena leaders or MNS party workers. But when the Chief Minister of a state starts making such remarks from his official post, it is indeed time to start getting anxious.

Any great economy is founded on basis of multi cultural meritocracy. Take any great city. Like New York or even our own Mumbai. What made them great? Was it some extra ordinary governance? Or some political party? No. what made them great were the people living and working in them. It was the talent that built the economy of such great mega cities. Cultural diversity, tolerance, respect, secularism and above all pure talent act like bricks and mortars of an economically viable city. If a couple of centuries ago, politicians of New York city had started throwing tantrums that 'we won't allow any non-americans to work in New York', would it be the financial capital of the world today? Similar argument can be made about Mumbai or any other city as well.

This trend is even more dangerous than caste system and reservations. Because here, politicians are trying to divide the country in even narrower factions. The day the politicians successfully bring such legislation in any state or city, it will be the death knell for meritocracy in India. The politicians have been driving long nails into coffin already. It's just a matter of time. Unless the citizens of the country wake up from the slumber, rise above the narrow mindedness of regionalism, and say 'No' to such politically motivate moves, India is on its way down.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

To Sing or Not to Sing: That is the Question

Jamiat-e Ulama Hind passed a 'fatwa' banning Indian Muslims from singing Vande Mataram - India's national song. I don't know what provoked Jamiat after more than 50 years since Vande Mataram was designated as national song. Were they deliberating whether it was against Islam to praise your Motherland all these years? Or it dawned as a divine message upon their leaders one fine morning and they decided to release a fatwa. I don't know.

However, the recent controversy made me curious and I revisited the song to find out its meaning. And here is what I found.

Vande Mataram
Sujalam Suphalam
Malayaja Seetalam
Sasya Shamalaam Mataram
Vande Mataram

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Mother free.

Shubra Jyotsnaa
Pulakita Yaminim
Drumadala Shobhinim
Sumadhura Bhashinim
Sukhadaam Varadaam
Vande Mataram

Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.

These are the stanzas we normally sing. It's a no brainer to think that there is anything Un-Islamic in these.

However, later on in the song, the following stanza appears.

Tvam Hi Durgaa
Dasha Prahara Nadhaarini
Kamala Kamaladala Viharini
Vani Vidhyadayini Namaami Tvam
Namaami Kamalaam,
Amalaam, Atulaam
Sujalaam Suphalaam Mataram
Vande Mataram

Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
With her hands that strike and her
swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleams,
Dark of hue O candid-fair

And I think this is what got onto the nerves of the leaders of Jamiat and other Muslim leaders in the past. And even at the time of adoption of this song as National Song there were same controversial voices of protest. And that is what prompted Congress at that time to adopt only first two stanzas as National Song.

Anyway, controversy surrounding Vande Mataram is not new. It has been under attack for a long time. Jamiat just added a spark to ignite it again.

What is your opinion?

[Translation above is by Shree Aurbindo taken from Wikipedia.]

Monday, November 09, 2009

Downward Spiral

Every time I open a news website, I am welcomed by some macabre headline staring at me. And it is not that I frequent just one or two sites. Sites ranging from Indian news to CNN and Time have only sad stories to tell.

Some of the latest headlines:

- 4 MNS legislators suspended for attacking Azmi
- UPA ministers' travel expenses: Rs 300cr in 3 yrs
- Pak daily passes 'death sentence' on US journalist
- Naxals could hit investment climate, warns FICCI
- Speeding car mows down 3 in Noida
- Suicide bomb attack kills 3 in Pakistan
- India is world's No.1 in retail theft: Survey

All these are just from Times of India site for today. And these are not all. Such news occupy pretty much 80% of the site.

Here in US, the papers are flooded with Fort Hood killings, Cleveland rapes and murders, Legalizing marijuana (This has surprisingly become such a hot topic these days. What a waste!), Tropical Storm Ida, Hateful radical preaching outside the mosque in NY and on and on and on.

Sometimes I wonder, is the entire world degenerating into misery, woes and sadness at an accelerating pace? Deterioration of everything over time is inevitable. Home towns becoming inhabitable due to pollution and traffic, weather becoming more and more hostile, terrorism eating the society alive, widespread epidemics of diseases increasing and so on. But in recent times, the pace of that seems to have accelerated.

Like the God is in a hurry to fold the game on our little planet earth and maybe start afresh.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Empire State of Mind

Continuing the mood.. Turn up the volume ! Enjoy.

"Empire State of Mind" by Jay Z and Alicia Keys