Funny | India | My Life | Nostalgia

A Hell of a Tale

A chance misreading of a letter sets in motion a long rambling account of what happens in my mind when faced with an unexplainable phenomenon. Also a bit of fun about living in the age of STD booths and inland letter cards.

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Experience | India | My Life

Part of a Billion

Last week, a census taker visited us, and for the first time, included us in the National Census of India.

The only previous memory of being included in the census was in the 1981 census, when I was staying with my grandparents in Bangalore for the summer holidays. My grandmother was sitting on the stone step outside the front door, removing adulterants from rice, when the census taker visited. My grandmother being a teacher herself, she got into a conversation with the census taker, who was also read more

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Diversions | Fun | Funny | India

The Art of Self-promotion

Insurance agents truly redraw the boundaries of entrepreneurship. A case in point is the image you see here. Vidya forwarded it to me, and I guess it was sent to her by someone to whom an insurance agent sent it. I have, of course, removed any personally identifiable information before posting it here, lest the agent be subjected to random acts of anger.

I myself am unsure of my reaction to this. On the one hand, it is easy to instantly lament the poor taste and opportunism exhibited by the agent. Recognizing this reaction for the knee-jerk it is, I am forced to think of another way of looking at it. I tried to imagine how this would have happened. For narrative convenience, I am positing a male agent.

Insurance agent is sleepily browsing his morning paper, perhaps accompanied by a cup of strong coffee. He reads “Notes and Tips from a Survivor” (which is actually excerpted from HLL GM Rahul Welde’s email – about which people have blogged) and feels good – for after all, is that not what the piece is about. 

However, he does not

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Featured | India | Media | Opinion | Television

Commercial Media Workers and the “War on Mumbai”

As much as the terrorist attack on Mumbai has exposed India’s unpreparedness to respond, it has exposed the Indian media’s lack of ethics and the death of journalism in Indian television.

The commercial media workers have been screaming at us continuously for about four days now, conveying opinions and impressions rather than facts and figures. Bringing us, and to the terrorists, minute-by-minute updates on what the over-burdened, blundering, ill-equipped “security” forces were up to. They did not leave anyone alone – not freed hostages, nor the families of those who were still trapped. They kept beating their breasts once in a while, proclaiming that they were “standing sentinel” and performing a yeomen service, even going so far as to call themselves heroes. Two channels were even going at each other, claiming how their live coverage was actually live and not five minutes delayed like the other channels.

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Cool | Culture | Experience | India | My Life

Summer Wedding

Last weekend took us on a whirlwind visit to Mumbai and Pune. Sriram, long-time friend, sharer in many an adventure (and misadventure!), sleeper at ten thirty, and a lot of other things, finally got hitched, and Vidya and I got a chance to see a Tam Brahm wedding from up close.

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Culture | India

Traditional Water Management Systems

Vasumathi was telling us about traditional water management systems that have existed for centuries in agrarian India. She was talking mainly about south India, and the way water management was institutionalised. This is especially important as the vast majority of cropped area is dependent on rains for irrigation.

Since there is only one rainy season, lasting for about two months, a network of irrigation tanks is maintained by the farming communities. These tanks have a two-fold purpose: one is read more

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Birds | India | Travel | Wildlife

Murugan the Bird Tracker

At Vedanthangal, we met Murugan, the Bird Tracker. He is a local who has been trained by the forest department to be a bird tracker. His combination of local knowledge and scientific ornithology is quite fascinating, and his keen eye was able to spot the single spoonbill out of a forest of herons and storks. He is constantly retrained, the latest sessions focussing on the avian flu and how to spot it.

He told us that this year was extremely good in terms of arrivals, though the painted storks had read more

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