Sunday, May 27, 2012


Watching the IPL final between Chennai and Kolkatta. Am not an IPL fan, but don't want to miss the excitement! On closer examination you can also see an assortment of my musical instruments: on left of the shelf is my guitar, and that long stick-like thing is my wooden flute, and beside the television, indistinct, is my tambourine. I fiddle with these instruments, literally, but I am master of none of it. Of course, guitar classes are going on.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Summer Sun

The summer sun through my window. The bamboo plant (see that patch of green) is such a joy to watch!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Listening to music in my son's room

Listening to music in my son's room. He has a good collection on his computer.

Summer Travel Travails

When things go wrong they really go wrong. And being summer holiday time many things are bound to go wrong. The only holidays I have ever had (ever!) had been during summer. And in summer when the city swelters with heat, water is scarce; we all board our trains to our villages, which inevitably are as dry as the government's canals in the Thar desert.

The first hurdle is obtaining the tickets. The damn bloody tickets won't come your way even if you queue up at 4 a.m. in the morning. I book tickets; my waitlisted ticket doesn't show in the confirmed list. The neighbourhood tout promises to deliver a confirmed ticket for 1200 a person. Idiot. I would travel by air for that money. By now my plans are getting a bit wonky, never mind. I travel by air. I worked all those late hours and travelled in crowded compartments not for nothing.

So I buy air tickets. The pilots' strike is on but Air India is selling tickets left and right. As a sucker for cheap fares I book Air India Express tickets. But what do I know? At the airport, the Air India airhostesses sit and chat with smug expression on their faces. I wait for my flight to show up on the screen. Why isn't my flight IX 204 showing though many are taking off? Not even a sorry, cancelled announcement! But the superciliousness of the Indian national airline becomes obvious when I approach the counter staff:

"I have a ticket for IX 204"

"Sorry, sir, I don't know if it is cancelled, let me check."

He calls his buddy on the mobile phone. He has no other computer system where he can check if the flight is cancelled. This buddy of his must be checking with his buddies, and those buddies must be checking with their buddies. So on and so forth.

After fifteen minutes of waiting, I am told the flight is cancelled. Imagine my shock. I had spent nearly 1000 quids on the taxi, another day lost and I am told after waiting 4 hours that my flight is cancelled. Those pilots need one in their posteriors, for sure.

Then I had no alternative but to approach the tout. He gladly accepted Rs 1200 and gave me the ticket the next day. Shows me that in India only corruption works nothing but corruption. Everybody in the government machinery shields the corrupt because they have the power, the money, and the contacts.

Now, my leave has been cut into half by these shenanigans. The short holiday I have is also fraught with perils. I return to Bombay with a bad stomach (too many mangoes!), a nasty cough and, a general feeling that I am losing touch with the world.
I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Goodbye Kerala!

LIVE BLOG: It's goobye to Kerala after a short vacation, too short to call it a vaation as such. Cirumstances were such. I don't know why every trip to my native state has to be so full of serenipitous adventure: an unconfirmed ticket, a pilots' strike, a tout who proved that in India only corruption worked, a countryside where well are dry though it is raining, moquitoes the size of flies, an old aunt of 97 years sinking into decripitude, etc, more of this later.

In Ernakulam

I am at Ernakulam in the last phase of my journey to Kerala, staying at my brother's flat at Edapally, which is situated at a busy junction. So I can hear the roar of traffic outside as the city wakes to a balmy morning.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Relations in Kerala

Now that the short vacation has come to an end here are my wife's nephew and neice who are my cricketing partners in kerala. It feels good to play with children.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

At the CSI International Airport

ON PHONE: Interesting that I am sitting in an airport contructed by the company I work for. Met an interesting person by name of Tharakan which is my own family title who gave me some interesting health tips. Disappointed that the Sahar airport doesn't have enough seats. When I found one an obese girl said it belonged to daddy. Guess the seat is permanently booked for daddy! Scoot!

Touring gear!

ON PHONE: Waiting for the taxi to arrive I am reminded of the saying 'Getting there is more interesting than arriving' some such grave profundity. There's a joy in travel that generates adrenalin in all od us. I will be blogging live this journey from my android phone, so watch this space. As is obvious I travel very light!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kerala trip put off

I had hopes of my Tatkal tickets being confirmed. However, that didn't happen. Going by air to Kerala by Air India Express. Don't know if I will be stranded because of the strike. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Going to Kerala for a Week!

From tomorrow I am off on my yearly vacation to Kerala. By train, of course. Nothing like the romance of train travel. In my childhood we travelled by steam-engine-drawn trains; these days they have graduated to diesel-engine-driven ones. Those days the journey took 3 days and took a circuitous route through Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These days it takes only 24 hours on the Konkan Railway. Hooray! Those days we arrived, our faces full of soot from the steam-engine, our bodies still feeling the vibration of the train on wheels. These days we step out of the air-conditioned coach of the Garib Rath (the poor's chariot). And we don't feel those phantom vibrations. Those days we travelled by way of Cuddapah, these days we travel by way of Udupi (note the rhyming nature of the words). Both stations are well-known for the cuisines they produce. What contrasts! What similarities! So watch out! I will be posting a lot of pictures from my cute little Android phone straight to this blog space. The beauty of Kerala will be obvious from these pics, or, so I hope.

I am excited as only a child could be. These journeys are full of adventure, excitement, and the joy of catching up with family members in Kerala. Of course, I have a house to look after (pictured here) and a bit of maintenance and gardening to do. My cousin Mathukutty is the caretaker and I have to see if he is doing his job.  

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Is There a Connection between Fundamentalism and Misogyny?

Refer to our earlier post wherein we had talked about how women are suppressed in the Arab lands. Then read this article in which CIA is said to have foiled terrorists with what is known as an "Underwear Bomb." Yes, one which can be worn in the underwear. Pity the poor soul! Ahem! Rest in peace, and all that! Imagination runs riot, which we won't write about in this self-effacing, self-respecting blog. What is shocking is that misogyny is turning people into the hands of the fundamentalists. Is there a connection? We mean, between misogyny and fundamental belief? We guess there is.

Hatred of women mean hatred of even one's close women relatives. How can a man who hates his mother and sisters be thought to be a normal free-thinking person who believes in equality of sexes? More so, how can we have such hatred within the family, however dysfunctional or divided it may be? When we think of our mothers, we think of protecting them, not hating or offending them, however invidious they may be. That five percent of humanity (Arabs constitute 5 per cent of world population) is subject to such misconceptions is condemnatory.

The frustration of women in Arab countries should be seen to be believed. They pass you in their dark burqas their eyes blazing, wanting to appear normal, wanting to be accepted, but not succeeding. How long can this go on?

Disturbing News from Our Arab Neighbours

Recently we read some shocking things happening to women in Saudi Arabia in this article. The article is titled "Why Do They Hate Us?" Indeed, as somebody who worked in the country for a year, much of this was surreptitiously visible to us. We had heard of female circumcision (genital mutilation) which had no purpose except to supposedly curb the libido of women, we had heard the funny rule that women shouldn't travel in public without burqa (hijab) and without a close member of the family: husband, brother or son. Anyone found breaking the rule would be flogged by the Muttawah (religious police, a police whose word on religious matters is discretionary. A Muttawah can order a flogging or caning on the spot and you are left without any alternative but to obey).

A widely-reported incident had a woman sentenced to flogging because she got into a car with strangers. She was gang-raped by the men subsequently, and obviously, the real culprits were set free on the pretext that she invited (supposedly incited) them to the crime. Rape in such countries are punishable only if there are eye witnesses who will testify, which in this case wasn't be possible. Who among the perpetrators will testify to their own crime? Can they? Will they? 

Women have been promised suffrage from 2015, which seems to be a big liberal give away. However, their say in matters of governing is nil. Much of the Arab world is similarly mired in fundamental religiosity and misogyny. Why this consideration of half of humanity as a different species to be used for sex and not given any rights at all? Why?  

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page here.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Happy sunday

Can't say this is a happy Sunday, though why not keep appearances, eh? I am blogging this from my mobile phone and hope there are'nt many bloopers, wiifey lleft for KERALA today and I will follow in a few days for the yearly ritual I have been following since I was a small child, those days it was by steam-engine driven coach these days it is by diesel train, those days we went by the Cuddapah route, these days by the Udupi route. Hope you have a happy Sunday.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

European Sovereign Debt Crisis and Its Effect on India

It seems the world is falling apart. Economic crisis in Europe, economic crisis in India, and elsewhere in the world. Long ago USA forsook it's economic superiority with it's debt crisis. The BRIC nations aren't looking too hunky dory in the present scenario. We might be in for another big -- and shocking -- recession. Today nations are living on credit and so are individuals comprising these nations. Saving are low and people are spending beyond their means. Credit is a nasty thing as you all know. I took a loan to buy my house and thereafter it was hell for me. Eventually, I had to go to the Persian Gulf to pay off my loan. 

So, ergo (or whatever is the smart phrase), imagine a country, no in this case a continent, living on credit. That is what Europe is doing with its European Sovereign Debt Crisis (ESDC). And you thought Europe was a solid (though cold) continent with sturdy cobbled streets and beautifully maintained castles. Ah, the dream intervenes! Now it seems -- according to this article -- the European Sovereign Debt Crisis hasn't left India alone. The prognosis is that the Kingfisher financial crisis is part of the ESDC. What do we deduce from this? Super airlines to super dud? From super power to super flop? Jobs will be affected and a lot of fat tears will be shed in corporate cubicles. You bet.

Meanwhile, all we can do is wait and watch.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page here.

"Forgive and Remember" and not "Forgive and Forget"

We have all worked under that bad boss who doesn't tolerate a mistake. In my long corporate career I have done. S/he would shout, badger, abuse and expect nothing but perfection in the work (Yeah, women bosses are just as bad!). Result: most people would leave rather than work with such a boss. What makes you chuck up the job and leave? What's the breaking point in such cases? No one wants to work with a guy/gal who is like an athlete on steroids. A lot of things are expected in organisations and when they don't happen the tendency is to point fingers and put the blame on others. Or, else, conveniently find a scapegoat and get him/er fired. However, the simmering differences remain. One screwed up doesn't mean one gets fired. The screwing up could only be one in a long line of successful project implementations. I have known of organisations where a person has worked for twenty odd years and fine morning is fired because of a simple silly mistake!

This Harvard Business Review (HBR) article is about discussing where one failed and owning up. "We screwed up, but let's not do it again." Not that the boss should have an attitude of everything is forgiven and forgotten, but one that says it's forgiven but not forgotten. Charismatic bosses can do that. The book Forgive and Remember is about just that. Please grab a copy. It's required reading for an up-and-coming executive. 

Excerpts from the HBR article:

Edmondson's subsequent research with Anita Tucker (see pdf) on what nurses can do to prevent and learn from mistakes is instructive — and makes it clear how much a good boss has to be willing to forgive. When they looked at the behaviors of the best nurses, they found "noisy complainers" (constantly sounding off to management about the causes of errors), "noisy troublemakers" (calling out mistakes by others that they could have turned a blind eye to), and "self-aware error makers" (making it known when they'd caught themselves doing something wrong, and encouraging others to be watchful for mistakes on their part). In other words, if you asked a doctor to imagine a "good nurse," these nurses came across as pretty much the opposite.
So a willingness to forgive — even of behaviors that can feel threatening — is essential on the part of any boss who wants to set group norms that will lead to psychological safety and constant learning. But, that shouldn't extend to a resolution to "forgive and forget." Those of us who have children learn that this is often the response they want when they mess up. I will personally always remember, for example, the day — the very day — that my daughter got her learner's permit to drive. A mistake of a few inches, hitting the gas instead of the brake, sent my wife's brand new car into the side of the house. All our daughter wanted was forgiveness, and for the incident to be completely erased from our memory banks. In that case, it might have been best.
In most settings, forgiving and forgetting, while temporarily comforting, condemns people and systems to make the same mistake again — sometimes over and over. The better approach is to "Forgive and Remember", which is the title of a great book by Charles Bosk on medical errors, and the philosophy he says the best teams and organizations use.

So? Choose to work with a boss who will discuss your failures and not shout at you for it. Simple!

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page here.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Orange Prize for Fiction Long List Announced

Meanwhile, taking a break from talking literary controversies and spats and cool cats (apologies!), here's the Orange Prize for Fiction Long List. No one, as far as my hazy memory goes, of anyone from the sub-continent. The Irish, British and American presence dominates, don't they. Sure they do. Give it to the fair-skinned seems to be the trend. Okay, apologies again!

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (Quercus) - Swedish; 1st Novel
On the Floor by Aifric Campbell (Serpent's Tail) - Irish; 3rd Novel
The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (The Clerkenwell Press) - American; 4th Novel
The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (Picador) - Irish; 7th Novel
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent's Tail) - Canadian; 2nd Novel
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape) - Irish; 5th Novel
The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki (Headline Review) - British; 5th Novel
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (Quercus) - American; 4th Novel
Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury) - British; 3rd Novel
Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (Faber & Faber) - British; 2nd Novel
The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) - British; 2nd Novel
The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape) - British; 6th Novel
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker) - American; 1st Novel
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury) - American; 1st Novel
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (Atlantic Books) - American; 7th Novel
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury) - American; 6th Novel
There but for the by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton) - British; 5th Novel
The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard (Alma Books) - British; 2nd Novel
Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (Chatto & Windus) - British; 1st Novel
The Submission by Amy Waldman (William Heinemann) - American; 1st Novel

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page here.

BCCI President's Son in Controversy

I was surprised to read this news story in the Bombay edition of Mirror. Not that Ashwin, son of N.Srinivasan refused to  pay for his drinks at Escobar, not that he punched a policeman, but that Mr. Srinivasan is also the owner (whole or part I don't know) of Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

Doesn't this raise the moral hair off your back? I mean the hackles. How can the president of the board that controls cricket in India also own a team, which is a for profit venture? Doesn't this raise questions of conflicts of interests? How can BCCI decide on matters of the Indian Premier League (IPL) when the president himself is a large player in the said league? 

Now my next question. Why hasn't the media raised this issue? The sports columns are full of sponsored writing, and nobody wants to upset the applecart. I think big scams are hidden in the sports and entertainment fields. More money is being made and shared without thinking of morality and ethics. It can't go on like this, can it?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Who is Slavoj Zizek?

Who is Slavoj Zizek? I didn't know till I read this article in the New Statesman. He is Slovenian and smells to me like a post-modern philosopher of extreme tripe and is shortly to have a documentary titled Zizek! released, which is totally devoted to his utterances. The press loves him, and so do academics who are on some expensive grant or the other in foreign universities. What does it matter, we have a scapegoat for all the world's balderdash, so why don't we indulge him, eh? Here are a few excerpts from the article written by Johann Hari, who was a journalist and staffer of the Independent who confessed to having committed plagiarism. 

His defenders claim he is trying to stretch the scope of philosophy to cover the everyday flotsam that philosophers have hitherto ignored. But gradually, as you pore through Zizek's words or watch his audiences, whose bemusement is caught on film, you discover that the complex manner in which he expresses himself does not imply that his thought is itself subtle or complex. In fact, he seeks to revive a murderous and discredited ideology.
Asked by an audience member what his idea of a good social order is, he replies: "Communism! I am absolutely in favour of egalitar ianism with a taste of terror." Behind Zizek's comedy routines, he believes we need to return to Bolshevism. He is not offering warm, fuzzy Lennonism; this is cold, bloody Leninism. Zizek writes rapturous hymns of praise to the "genius" and "strength" of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, calling him "the poli tician of the 20th century" and demanding "fidelity to Lenin's legacy". Just in case there is any ambiguity about the anti-democratic nature of supporting the man who erected a monstrous one-party police state in Russia, Zizek explains that Lenin's "ultimate lesson is that only by throwing off our attachment to liberal democracy" can we become virtuous.

So who is this man who claims to love Stalin, Lenin, and Mussolini? A good thing he didn't mention Hitler. Modern or post-modern, or down in the dumps firebrand and mischief-maker?

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page here.