Sunday, December 31, 2006

An Introduction to Ancient Indian Naval Architecture, With Some Observations on Contemporary Popular Historiography

In which Ludwig examines some things nautical

Recent posts here have been about such frivolous claptrap that Ludwig cannot countenance any more, pieces on such drivel as reservations, love failure, emerging mobile technologies, entrepreneurship and the death penalty. Pleasurable though it was to conjure up those tidbits, we realize that our vast audience has too long been denied what they were accustomed to in the good old days. Namely, a succinct, comprehensive, well thought out, skilfully constructed, well informed, thoroughly researched, topical article on some burning issue of contemporary relevance. A blob is not just a mere pulpit on the internet from which Thomas, Richard and Sivasubramaniam Chandrasegarampillai can rail at unsuspecting passers-by about whatever catches their fancy. A blog has a greater duty, a higher purpose, a nobler ideal to live up to. It carries forward the great traditions of dissent and critical scrutiny of Zola, Rev. Dr. King Jr., The Onion, &c. It is a public space that oughtn't to be defiled by the washing of dirty linen and the cooking of kaakarakaai pulusu.

To make amends for the last few wasted months, and seeing as it is the zeroeth death anniversary of Saddam Hussein, we have decided to post a little something on history and historiography, two subjects that we have an abiding interest in. Specifically, in this thesis, we will be addressing topics in ancient Indian myth/history, and how 20th century creative sensibilities throw new light on said topics.

To a certain class of people (this author included) with a putative superior engineering education, navel architecture is an engrossing subject, even if we have been landlubbers all our life, and never even caught sight of the blue yonder. For aeons, we have sought perfection in these matters, and have not tasted success in the real world. This essay is not about our failed quest in the real world.

In the halcyon days of our boyhood, we imbibed Indian culture and values through the pores, mainly by the stratagem of gobbling up Amar Chitra Katha comics by the dozen. The long summer afternoons passed as if in a dream, interrupted only by the mysterious appearance of mangoes, gooseberries and so on at Poisson intervals. Those informative volumes introduced us to the wondrous world of Indian history and mythology mostly via memorable illustrations.

The ages passed. Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth, and for two score years the comics fell off of all Ludwig's radar screens. Until one day when, in a small hole in Begumpet, Ludwig happened to find himself thumbing through some of those very tomes that had occupied his undivided attentions through those summer months, many years ago.

Things, however, had changed. Having become something of a truth seeker, he was now entranced, in a strictly academic way, by the umm...ah...illustrations of the hemm...haww...midriffs of the err...apsaras and kinnaras and so on. One realized that the Amar Chitra Kathas had had a much more formative effect on one's psyche than one had hitherto suspected.

Being public spirited, one wishes to serve one's people, and keep them informed about all such important matters. So we whipped out our Canon Powershot S45 and proceeded to photograph said volumes, and made notes about the illustrators, which follow.

A quick glance through the entire corpus reveals various levels of clarity and confidence in the depictions of the above mentioned midriffs. Is there something we can learn about the illustrator, from the manner in which he chooses (or does not, as the case may be) to wield his brush when he has to show Anasuya and Priyamvada frolicking amongst the creepers? Can we then, discern an order of merit, in which we can rank these talented artists? And having done so, can we use this order of merit as a guide in future perusals and purchases of the literature?

We will simply present the evidence here, and leave our astute readers to draw their own inferences about the work and the illustrator. And through this creative process which sublimates these external stimuli, into coherent thoughts and locus standi on this seminal issue, we hope (indeed we flatter ourselves), that our faithful readers will learn something of the construction and configuration of their own internal neural pathways and, perhaps, arrive at that pinnacle of Self Understanding, from whence it is very hard to climb down without oxygen cylinders and broken in shoes.

Be that as it may, we move on to the exhibits themselves.

P.B.Kavadi The work on hand is Kalidasa's "Shakuntala". P.B. Kavadi's illustrations are marked by very clean lines; soulful, fish-like, eyes and almost sculptural body types. When we turn to the first page of the "Shakuntala", we are struck by the courage the illustrator displays in depicting the apsara Menaka's considerable charms.

We note the vividity with which the midriff is depicted, and it gives us hope for the future. Alas, it is not to be. Perhaps the artist's courage fails him, after the first flush of valour, and we find subsequently that the midriffs are marked by a marked reluctance to firmly make a statement.

In an effort to determine whether Kavadi's reluctance is a temporary aberration manifested only in the "Shakuntala", we drew samples from "Malavikagnimitra" as well.

And we are disappointed yet again. The artist's style is consistent, it was only the first panel from "Shakuntala" that was the aberration. We move on...

Pratap Mullick Once again, we have a Kalidasa play to base our observations on. "Vikramorvasiyam" is illustrated by Pratap Mullick.

Immediately, we see that indeed, each illustrator has his own style. If Kavadi's is marked by the cleanliness of the lines, Mullick's distinguishing attribute is the classicism he brings to the drawings. The drapiness of robes, the waspiness of waists, the wideness of hips - all well attested to in classical Indian poetic tradition. Once again, we note how the first panel offers hope, in our particular area of interest. Urvashi, we find is exquisite, and we pray that the theme will continue in the inside pages.

Hatha vidhi!! While Kavadi's pictures inside the book at least had a smidgen of ink where a navel should've been, Mullick's Aushinari is devoid of even a blemish. She looks like Damien Thorn's twin sister, very weird.

Ram Waerkar We now move from the realm of pure fiction, to someone who straddles the world of myth and history. We have two samples of Ram Waerkar's illustrations to consider. The first is from "Surya", the story of the sun god.

Waerkar's style seems to be via media between Kavadi's and Mullick's. The clean lines are there, the classicism is conspicuous, and glory of glories, in an internal panel, Waerkar has courageously put an unmistakable dot, where it should be. So much for myth.

Waerkar's style when he draws the story of "Rani Durgavati", is almost wholly different. Gone are the curves and the exaggerations. The pictures have a gritty, almost newsreel feel, the stomping of boots and the clash of musketry is almost palpable. We see that once again Waerkar has not shirked in his duty to art and reality, and wielded his pen or brush with conscientiousness. In summary, it may be said that Waerkar is, while not profligate in his depictions of the midriff, true to anatomy and his oeuvre when he does engage with the subject.

Yusuf Bangalorewalla We conclude with a series of 4 panels from Yusuf Bangalorewalla's "Mirabai". Another historical figure, another recalcitrant artist. The images are breathtaking (we found), and on the spectrum of courageousness, Bangalorewalla lies somewhere between Kavadi and Waerkar.

In conclusion, we find the order of merit to be as follows:

1. Waerkar: For his versatility and courage
2. Bangalorwalla: For the aesthetic, and the nascent ability (that needs to find expression) to be true
3. Kavadi and Mullick. Take a stand, gentlemen. Take a stand, gentlemen, take a stand!

And with these "points to ponder", we at the Choultry wish you all a Happy New Year & c. See you on the other side...

Erratum: The title of this post should read "An Introduction to Ancient Indian Navel Architecture, With Some Observations on Contemporary Popular Historiography". The error is regretted.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Genesis - Initiating Innovations

A plug for a fellow Gold Mandarin Duck and the alma mater: Check out Genesis. Brief dope follows.


A Social Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition

Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Aavishkaar India Micro Venture Capital fund, Tata Consultancy Services, and MIT IDEAS Competition, USA, jointly announce "Genesis", a Business Plan Contest in Social Entrepreneurship that will identify and support innovative business ideas targeted at addressing a social cause.

Winning teams will receive up to Rs 3 lakhs in seed funding to implement their ideas.

The competition is open to all students and working professionals (including NGOs) who have ideas that are innovative, feasible and can benefit society, with the single proviso that 50% of every team that enters this competition should be students. The contest is designed in 3 stages: In Stage 1, registered teams can attend a series of workshops at IIT-Madras on January 13-14, and submit executive summaries of their socially relevant business ideas by Jan 17, 2007. Workshops will provide participants with specific business planning skills as well as general social entrepreneurial insights. Stage 2 would see selected teams refining and developing complete Business Plans. Stage 3 envisions the presentation and evaluation of the final submissions at IIT-Madras, with the finale of awards slated for Feb 26.

The Genesis website - contains more information on this competition. Registration and initial submission can be done through the website. The website includes a ‘Collaboration’ section designed to help participants find team-mates with complimentary ideas or skill sets. If you have business-related skills or are interested in crafting a business plan, but do not have a socially relevant idea, you can use the ‘Collaboration’ forum or contact us through the Genesis website. We will then try and connect you with people who have innovative ideas but need help in crafting a business plan.

Genesis will provide those with ideas, or even the beginning of an idea, with assistance in various stages of their project lifecycle. The gamut of facilitation services include the creation of an innovation ecosystem and environment for idea generation, technical mentoring, a forum for collaboration, and project guidance and financial aid including seed capital.

So if you are a budding entrepreneur with social commitment, looking for a channel, collaboration, or mentoring, we urge you to visit the Genesis website and participate in this year’s competition.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Room With A View, With Some Observations On Gadgets, And A Picture Of Ludwig

Chez Ludwig, despite its concrete jungle location, has a moderately pleasing view. Some greenery, some billboards, some filth. A little bit of everything. The discerning reader will no doubt have spotted what is special about this picture.

And this one...

No? Still see nuffink? Look closely. We have helpfully placed striking yellow and blue rectangles. Look inside the rectangles.

Still no?

Well, so there we were, dissolutely plying the toothbrush in the oral cavity on a Sunday midmorning, as one normally does, when we glimpsed aerial activity in the middle distance. Stumble in, grab scope, camera, and stumble back to window. Which is the story of those pictures. Anyway, the blue and yellow rectangles magnified.



Ladeej and jantalbhainses, we give you, live and hot from Begumpet, Hyderabad, a bevy of Little Green Bee-eaters (merops orientalis). These flitty things aren't exactly uncommon, but bloody fun to watch, as they take off periodically and dart about dementedly in search of...umm...bees. Almost beginning to wish we had a better camera...

In other ornithological news, the Birdwatchers Society Of Andhra Pradesh (BSAP) conducted their first ever "bird race" last Sunday. The very intrepid (1) Sheetal has an in-detail blow-by-blow i-was-there account of the proceedings. Teams spotted as many as 104 different species in and around Hyderabad, which is stunning, to say the least. To think that this primeval lump of barren Deccan Plateau...(shuts up hastily lest the lynch mob arrives).

We couldn't go to the race, nope, we couldn't. We were off running the Hyderabad 10k road race that same day. We ran this race last year, in the company of a curious sandbagging Irrawady dolphin, who this year thankfully spared us the agony of watching the clouds of dust as she took off at the end.

For this edition, we managed to get around 20 unwitting souls from work to sign up. We wended our way through Brahmanwadi at the crack of dawn, crossed the tracks and found ourselves at People's Plaza. The run was supposed to start at 7:00, but what with the dignitaries getting escorted onstage by each other (yes, there was an infinite loop of escorting-dignitaries-onstage), the crowd going nuts (right!) at the sight of killadiyon ka killadi (2), Sameera Reddy, Subbarami Reddy (3), and other Reddys, the thing didn't kick off till 7:20 or so. The crowd seemed a lot smaller than last year, there was no danger of fallschirmjäger sedimenting on our heads from the heavens, and there were portable loos (big, big improvement over last year, although lots of people perhaps hadn't figured out what the telephone booths were for at a road race!).

So we all set off, and we took pictures as usual. Here's one from Tank Bund, with little cute sailboats and stuff. It was a very nice day for a morning lun, no sun and all.

And, here's that much awaited mugshot of Ludwig Himself, in the flesh, somewhere between the end of Tank Bund and the Sanjeevaiah Park gates:

Yes, that's us. Except for the head, of course (the size is just about right). You see, this Predator with a serious yen for dum biryani, was in the process of materializing right in front of us, as the picture was being taken. Tchah. [Readers will be glad to know that Ludwig did not come to any harm. Pred courteously requested directions to Paradise, and in true Hyderabadi fashion, instead of actually giving him the straight and narrow path, we did the decent thing and told him how we thought he ought to go about the getting-to-Paradise algorithm, "Aap aisa karo...." Pred thanked us with a slap on the back [Note to self: Remove icky talon thing from between shoulderblades when showering next], and slithered off towards RTC Crossroads.]

Phew. Anyway, there are a couple of things to note (apart from the sexy, curvaceous looks) in the above picture. Which brings us to our final set of gadgets. Note the belt. This is a FuelBelt from the training-for-Marine-Corps-Marathon days. We whip it out once a year, mainly to hold camera, money and so on on these little runs.

Also, observe what is strapped to our left wrist. This is the latest baby of them all. It is what is called a Garmin Forerunner 301.

It's an inspire-fat-Ludwigs-to-run thingumabob. Has a GPS receiver which shrewdly plots your every move; a heart rate monitor which, with a steady, unblinking, unambiguous "0" where it should read "165", will clearly indicate to you that, you're in fact, dead. In case this crucial aspect of your existence had escaped your attention, engrossed as you were in following that item in tight red tracksuit, scooting up those impossible steps in the KBR Park circuit. So this sexpot (gadget) can store boatloads of data, and lets you do a bunch of stuff. You can download the data and view on your desktop (as in the below, which shows a run around KBR Park):

It computes elevation gain and loss (look closely, there is a picture below):

And when you hook it up to MotionBased, you can quickly upload all your data, do all kinds of analyses, and plot your path against Google Earth. Check out our new running log. The gory 10k details are available, and our final exhibit, a shot of the Google Map for the 10k, generated from the running log:

We loves the technology.


1. Intrepid for reasons including introducing a colour-blind, tone-deaf, biologically inept Ludwig to a hapless BSAP.

2. MMKR digression: "Dai, avan jagath jaala killadi da..." - Thanks to all 2 of you who giggled at this blast from the past.

3. Couldn't find a decent link for Mr. Reddy, but Google revealed this parliamentary debate. Snippet:

DR. T. SUBBARAMI REDDY (VISAKHAPATNAM): ...I would like to say that 17,000 mws of power was the only increase in the Eighth Plan. As far as the Ninth Plan is concerned, already one year is over and the Government is proposing 40,000 mws of power generation. Perhaps, it may be very difficult. The entire country is reeling under the shortage of power. The prosperity and progress of the country depends on the power generation. So, I would like to say that all the 545 Members must stand for power production.

MR. CHAIRMAN : Dr. Reddy, you are having extraordinary powers. You can contribute.

... (Interruptions)

DR. T. SUBBARAMI REDDY : I sleep only for four hours because I am having extra powers. I am active for 20 hours with different social, political, spiritual and cultural activities. (Interruptions).

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Recycling a very old post we did, aeons ago, in a different place, in a different avatar.

Born in the 13th century AD in Balkh, Afghanistan, Jelaluddin Balkhi's family fled the invading Mongols to Roman Anatolia (hence "Rumi") in modern day Turkey sometime between 1215 and 1220. Rumi was a Sufi sage, professor of religion, philosopher, poet all rolled into one. More about Rumi at the following sites:One of the most significant events in Rumi's life was his meeting the wandering dervish Shams of Tabriz (Shams-e-Tabriz is a term that seems to come up in various ghazals/qawwalis). Their encounter had a profound effect on Rumi and his friendship and association with Shams inspired much of his work. Shams's disappearance (some say murdered by Rumi's jealous son) was a bereavement which egged Rumi on to greater heights.

The following verses are from Coleman Barks' translation of Rumi and his book is quite well done.


We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That's fine with us. Every morning
we glow and in the evening we glow again.

They say there's no future for us. They're right.
Which is fine with us.


I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.

Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let's buy it.


Come to the orchard in Spring.
There is light and wine, and sweethearts
in the pomegranate flowers.

If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.


The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question,
nor is it bought with going to amazing places.

Until you've kept your eyes
and your wanting still for fifty years,
you don't begin to cross over from confusion.


Listen to presences inside poems,
Let them take you where they will.

Follow those private hints,
and never leave the premises.

Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,

a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden

within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,

Spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us

to see the soul. The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty."

Hear the love fire tangled
in the reed notes, as bewilderment

melts into wine. The reed is a friend
to all who want that fabric torn

and drawn away. The reed is hurt
and salve combining. Intimacy

and longing for intimacy, one
song. A disastrous surrender

and a fine love, together. The one
who secretly hears this is senseless.

A tongue has one customer, the ear.
A sugarcane flute has such effect

because it was able to make sugar
in the reedbed. The sound it makes

is for everyone. Days full of wanting,
let them go by without worrying

that they do. Stay where you are
inside such a pure, hollow note.

Every thirst gets satisfied except
hat of these fish, the mystics,

who swim a vast ocean of grace
still somehow longing for it!

No one lives in that without
being nourished every day.

But if someone doesn't want to hear
the song of the reed flute,

it's best to cut conversation
short, say good-bye, and leave.

Reminds us rather of a Hillaire Belloc nugget:

How did the party go in Portman Square?
I cannot tell you: Juliet was not there.

And how did Lady Gaster's party go?
Juliet was next to me and I do not know.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Das Kapital (Punishment)

Wrote this over in the comments section of Mango Indian's post on a recent death penalty case, realized that we haven't posted in ages, and that the comment itself is long enough to count as a post, so copium pastum est.

Moné [Moganlal accent here], the death penalty is wrong. Period. No matter who the accused is or what the circumstances are. This is not coming from an ethical/moral or crime reduction standpoint ("We don't have the right to give life, so we don't have the right to take it." and the "Death penalty really doesn't deter capital crime" type arguments which have varying degrees of merit in themselves). The death penalty is wrong simple because it doesn't have an 'Undo'/'Ctrl + z' type facility.

The death penalty is intended to be used in the 'rarest of the rare' cases. Also courts constantly take cognizance of extenuating circumstances when deciding on a sentence, and often enough we see a lower court's 'gallows'-happy decision being overturned in a higher court. Does that mean that this person is suddenly not that guilty? Tacitly the system is admitting to the possibility that it was wrong the first time it sentenced someone, so what's to say it couldn't be wrong a couple of more times (Supreme Court, the President)?

The point is that you never know when extenuating circumstance comes to light. What if you pop off some sucker in what seems like an open-and-shut case and find out later that he was being blackmailed (in some suitably coercive manner) at the time that he committed the crime? Almost certainly this would've been seen as an extenuating factor, had it been known before, and perhaps the sentence wouldn't have been as harsh. If the person is alive, at the very least, the state/society can attempt to compensate him/her for loss of liberty etc. If he/she is dead, you can do precisely diddly squat.

There are any number of such scenarios that could happen. Isn't US judicial history is littered with cases where people were pulled off death row after years because something new came up?

The other argument against the death penalty (and also against other punishments) in India is the manifest unfairness of the way in which it is awarded. We're yet to see the Manu Sharma types (to use an example) swaying delicately in the monsoon breeze on a gibbet, whereas the Dhananjay Chatterjees who can't afford snazzy legal teams seem to be baalti tannify-ing more regularly (Is there someplace where we can get a consolidated list of all the death penalty executions in India, with case details?) This is a whole other can of worms...

Finally, there is the argument (that reeks of Taurean ordure) that you hear from the morally indignant and outraged "tax paying public" (of the sort you see on "We The People" on NDTV) that the society and their precious taxes oughtn't to be paying for keeping a slimeball alive, why waste that money and so on. The right way to look at it is that it isn't a case of the taxpayers money going towards keeping some manifestly evil person alive; it should be treated as a cost that society collectively agrees to pay to ensure that some potentially innocent person is never done away with. We keep paying 'preventive' costs of this sort all the time (for example, we pay people who guard politicians), and there's no reason why we shouldn't do it in this case.

Really, its a totally open-and-shut case. The fact that the death penalty's got to go is as trivially obvious as the fact that Article 377 has got to go.

Last year, we were fourth and this time we managed to slime into 3rd place. We must be getting picking teammates.


Google has revealed the following resources:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rain in Begumpet

Long time, no photoblog. There's some sort of depression in the Bay type production in progress, and it has been raining in Begumpet. Yesterday evening was rather pretty.

The...ah...lofty spires of the Hyderabad Public School.

Mmm. Sunset.

Meanwhile, , this fellow is still lurking in the azadirachta indica betwixt Mayur Marg and SP Road. Ye of little faith...


Hallelujah! Messrs. Dewey, Cheatem & Howe are on Worldspace [2:30 p.m. IST, Sundays, NPR]. Bit bizarre to be listening to Car Talk on a Sunday afternoon in Begumpet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Recent events have triggered a re-reading of Sowing the Wind, whence we have gleaned the following gem.

Lord Arthur Balfour paid only one visit to Palestine, for inaugarating some university or something like that. As he disembarked, the customs official at Jaffa supposedly asked him, "Have you anything else to declare, Mr. Balfour?"

Heh :)

Monday, August 21, 2006


We need a new cell phone. Il Professori gave us hell this weekend (in an NRI accent, "Tum India ka beggar log is type ka phone leke kya ukhaadta hai" and so on...) for not having a fully functional phone. He showed us his. It looks like the Starship Enterprise's command console. We are more modest. Desired specs below. Will our readers (numberless as the sands of Araby), please help us find one?

Brand: Nokia
Type: Monoblock, candy bar, whatever...
Camera: NO!!!
Connectivity: USB, Infrared, Bluetooth
Java/J2ME: MIDP 2.0, CLDC 1.1 device, with decent max JAR size and RAM
Misc: Pluggable, extensible, memory type things; a decent size (500+) address book; FM radio; battery life; speakerphone and so on.

Dream phone: E60. Costs upward of Rs. 19,000.

6233 will work fine too. Except that it too is pricey. Rs. 14,000 types.

The 6230i is a recent entrant in these sweepstakes, but not sure what it costs.

Finally, the ideal value-for-money phone would've been the redoubtable 6021. Unfortunately, they don't make this phone, or anything like it any more. [Note to self: Send booby trap with thermonuclear warhead to an address in Finland.]


PS: Under duress, we're willing to relax the "no camera" restriction. Bleah.

PPS: We're dangerously on the verge of dropping this whole Nokia obsession and getting the muchly delicious looking Motorola SLVR.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Poem

To His Lost Lover
    -Simon Armitage

Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance ... for instance,

how he never clipped and kept her hair, or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush

at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept like buried cutlery -

two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
or made the most of heavy weather -

walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
or did the gears while the other was driving.

How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segments of her lips

from breaking the news,
or tasted the fruit,

or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart

was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.

Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.

And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,

then another,
or knew her

favourite colour,
her taste, her flavour,

and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair

into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
of lather, or acted out of turn, or misbehaved

when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been, or walked back home

through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand

to his butterfly heart
in its two blue halves.

And never almost cried,
and never once described

an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt

nursed in his hand her breast,
her left, like a tear of flesh

wept by the heart,
where it hurts,

or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.

Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,

a pilot light,
or stayed the night,

or steered her back to that house of his,
or said 'Don't ask me to say how it is

I like you.
I just might do.'

How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand

were a solid ball
of silver foil

and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.

But said some things and never meant them -
sweet nothings anybody could have mentioned.

And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

On "Merit"

Hiatus. Long hiatus. We were in Bombay. In the very same place where we were a year back. Horrible things happened then. This time, very cleverly, we went before the rains set in. [Aside: Go and read There's No Place Like Home. Its about Bombay, and rains, and home. And very nice.]

Anyway, we will now relate a short tale. Thanks to that man Keynes and his homosexual intrigues for introducing us to this parable.

One sunny Spring mid-morning, Lord Pelf-Lucre returned home, after a few well-spent hours scaring poopless some hitherto carefree snipe that had been lurking in the fens adjoining one of the lakes in his private 10,000 acre estate. It was starting to get rather warm, and Pelf-Lucre was somewhat enervated after all the blundering through the reeds. He was fat, and tired, and was rather looking forward to his e. and b., the financial papers, and a snooze in his favourite chair in his favourite spot overlooking the rose garden and the yew alley.

As the hunting party drew up to the massive doors of Hoard Hall, Pelf-L. espied a supine figure on his impossibly green front lawn. Upon huffing and puffing a little nearer, he was able to see that a person of some sort, indeed, lay asleep on the verdure.

"Hoi!!", shouted the peer.

The sleeper awoke, slowly, and dragged himself to his feet. The vagabond (for such he was) squinted in the morning glare. His clothes were tattered, his body reeked, and what seemed to be the sum total of his worldly possesions were tied in a bundle, at the end of his staff.

"What do you think you're doing, eh?", said P-L.

"Jes' ketchin' some sleep guv'nor."

"And who gave you permission to plonk yourself on my property, you bounder?!!"

"Why no one guv'nor! Its jes' that me legs were sore on account of tramping around Shropshire..."

"Well, this is my house, and you can't trespass. So be off, or I'll set the footmen on you."

"An' 'ow did ye' come to own yon 'ouse, guv'nor?"

"You impudent rascal!! Do you have any idea who I am? I'm Lord Pelf-Lucre, and Hoard Hall has been in my family for 30 generations!"

"So i' was yer' fa'ther then tha' gave ye' yon castle?"

"Yes! Yes!! A thousand times yes!"

"And oo' did 'e get the 'ouse frae?"

"His father, you jackass!"

"And oo' did 'e get the 'ouse frae?"

"His father, you [gaali goes here]"

This went on for a bit. After about 5 minutes, they had worked their way backwards through Pelf-Lucre's geneology. Presently, they were talking about the first Lord Pelf-Lucre.

"And oo' did the first Lord Pelf-Lucre get the house 'frae?"

"I've sent for the constabulary, but since we have a little time, and you insist on keeping up with these asinine questions, I'll have you know that the first Lord Pelf-Lucre was a knight of the realm under William the Conqueror. He fought tooth and nail and spilled his blood and wrested Hoard Hall and this estate from some nameless barbarian who probably deserved everything he got!", panted Pelf-Lucre, and wiped his sweaty brow with a silk kerchief.

The tramp unhitched the bundle from the end of his staff (which was rather stout and business like), dropped the bundle on the ground, and stretched to his full height.

"Well, then. Let's fight."

Meanwhile, in other news, the reservation ruckus continues.

[This Just In (May 22, 2010!): Indisch has drawn it!]

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dabbles, Sometimes Dives

"Dabbles. Sometimes dives." This pithy phrase is used to describe the feeding habits of many a water bird by such worthies as Messrs. Grimmett, Inskipp & Inskipp. Strangely enough, the very same phrase could be used to describe Ludwig's approach to many, many interests in life. A lot of dabbling, and nearly not enough diving. Most recently, we have begun to dabble in birdwatching. No, we will not indulge in birdwatching PJs.

With the grim intention of dabbling in our latest interest, we made a quick trip to Bandipur National Park. The following is the detailed procedure for getting to Bandipur from Begumpet:
  1. Have lunch. Acquire tennis elbow. This is vitally important.
  2. Arrange a powercut, so that the UPS at work conks off at 2:00 ish. This means you can slime out of work at 5:00. Contrive to get dropped off at Begumpet station.
  3. Miss the MMTS train to Kacheguda by a whisker. Instead, haul posterior in auto across the city.
  4. Catch the Kacheguda-Bangalore City Express. Have some tea and tiffin. Buy dinner. This is also vitally important. The food on this train is insipid. There are no decent eating options, as you cross the state. You will be foisted by the Rs. 30 railway biryani, circa 3500 B.C.
  5. Once in Bangalore, eat a paratha. One for the road.
  6. Breakfast proper is to be had at Kamat Lokaruchi on the Mysore highway. Idlis, dosai, puri, vada, coffee. [The trick to a perfect trip is to simply plan for the food. Everything else will fall into place miraculously as long as you plan the meals right.]
  7. En route, coconut water, and tender coconut. Mmm.
  8. Time arrival at Tiger Ranch so that lunch is just being served.
Tiger Ranch is a strange 'resort'. Located almost within the national park, right next to a water hole, a short walk from a fantastic dam, in the middle of more or less lush jungle vagera, vagera. You would think that with such a place to plonk itself in, nothing could go wrong. We did think so. We were wrong. For some completely pigeon-brained reason, the management insists on playing 'music' all day (11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.) via a solidly built speaker system. 'Music' includes Pink Floyd, Himesh Reshammiya (Reshammaiyya or whatever the bugger's name is), and other dingchak varieties. Major problem. Most aggravating to run away from city noise to walk into this pseudo dance club in the middle of what should've been a quiet and peaceful jungle.

This 'ambience' also serves to attract several groups of young 'men' to the 'resort'. They apparently arrive in droves, drink, eat, drink, sit around the 'camp' fire, drink, dance, drink, eat, drink, hoot, drink and pass the rest of the night exchanging 'pleasantries' at the tops of their voices from one end of the 'resort' to the other. Definitely give Tiger Ranch 'resort' a miss...

Everything else, was fantastic. We drove up and down the Bandipur-Masinagudi road, saw elephants, gaur, boar, monkeys, deer (in the zillions) and so on. The full 'photo essay' is here. Perhaps the biggest paisa vasool of the trip was catching sight of a trio of striped stripe-necked mongeese, slurping at a pool of water; and a Malabar giant squirrel fighting the Monday morning blues on a treetop. No, we did not see any tigers, leopards, bears or lions.

But it was the birds that were perhaps most gratifying. And Ludwig really loves the hoopoe. What a flighty, unlikely little thingummy! A questionable name in English (PJ: Hoo? Edgar Allan?), and in Latin (upupa epops! upupa epops it seems!!). We would gladly trade all the pigeons of Begumpet for one of these delights in our neighbourhood ficus religiosa or azadirachta indica. We also saw parakeets (plum headed), pigeons (yellow footed), bee eaters (green), nuthatches (chestnut bellied), ibises (black headed, and black), stork (painted), eagle (serpent), jungle fowl (grey), cocks (pea) and so on... We thumbed our trusty Inskipp (1) and derived much joy and Maxwell's equations.

During this entire process, we did not once forget about food. Unbelievable, but true. We carefully planned all meals, that's all there is to it, really. One lunch and one breakfast were devoured at the Jungle Lodges' restaurant Pugmarks, an optimally planned pitstop at Kamat's on the return trip was made, and we got home just in time for sunset, filter coffee and Sunday papers.

1. "'...trusty Inskipp...', said Ludw., who'd only started birding the day before yesterday" Reminds us of a small rhyme from The Undertakers

In August was the Jackal born;
The Rains fell in September;
"Now such a fearful flood as this,"
Says he, "I can't remember!"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pondy Weekend

1. adj. (Ind. campus sl.) - pornographic, designed to arouse lust
2. n. (Tam.) - Pondicherry

1. n. The end of the week, especially the period from Friday evening through Sunday evening.
2. n. (Ludw.) A time to spend as completely as possible within 500 feet of a beach, eating industrial quantities of seafood, drinking beer, and in general behaving like Commodus type individual.

So off we went then, to Madras. Once there, we headed post-haste for the bank. A day was spent wandering the grounds and lording it over the hoi polloi, who weren't allowed behind the "Do Not Enter - Staff Only" signs;

dip in the sea; Vishu (Puthuvatsara AashamsakaL! Happy V.!) sadya; inspection of the denizens;

(yes, that is indeed a baby Indian python coiled lovingly around Ludw.'s hirsute hand); and dinner at "The Blue Elephant" in Mahabalipuram. You wish to know the menu? Tawa fried prawns (very simple, chilli powder, curry leaves, minimalist), calamari with some sauce, grilled fish with rice, another prawn thingy with another sauce, Kingfisher, and chocolate Cornetto.

By now, the engorged torso was starting to look rather like one of those pythons we'd been hanging out with all day. Tottered off to bed, lulled by the sound of the sea, the screeches of egrets, and the soothing toccata and fugue in D minor played by a very tiny orchestra of mosquitoes in the vicinity of the ear canal.

Up bright and early next morning, and off to Pondicherry in one of those CMBT-Pondicherry ECR buses, driven by a close cousin of Ben-Hur. Before we could decently finish practising, "Je m'appelle Joseph François Dupleix", we were in Pondicherry.

We decanted into the room with the view at "The Park Guest House", right on the briny beach.

Pondy is really quite an amazing town. Brightly coloured, quiet, beach front, tree-lined streets. We cannot believe that we spent all those aeons in Madras and never once visited Pondy till last weekend. What were we thinking? Spent much of the day wandering about town from place to place (incl. the Auro ashram and the Pondicherry Museum) on bicycles and by foot, more eating (the entire trip was structured around the important questions of life, chiefly "What do we eat?" "When?" and "Where?").

Siesta. More walking about town, Indian Coffee House, the beach, dinner at Rendezvous (30 Rue Suffern, at the corner of Rue Suffern and Rue Bussy - how cool is that street address?). Do not even ask us about dinner. En passant, we will mention the grilled halibut, the caramel custard and the gin and tonic.

Bed. Once again lulled by the sound of the Bay of Bengal, beating a tattoo on the rocks right outside the balcony. Startlingly luminiscent moon.

Next morning, we rented scooters, polished off some dosae at the Indian Coffee House, and set off for Auroville. This is a remarkable place, even if you do not jive with the whole Aurobindo-Mother philosophy type schtuff. The Auroville community has, over the years, carried out a number of interesting projects in education, community living, building, agricultural practises, non-conventional energy type cool areas. When Aurovillians are not doing these cool type activities, they seem to be engaged in building Mathrimandir, which seems like a gigantic monument to ego (if you're an infidel like Ludwig), and completely inappropriate for this day and age.

But what to do, to each their own. Different strokes, different folks. After you get over the bizzareness of not insignificant quantities of barefoot Caucasians driving around the Dravidian countryside on motorcycles and mopeds, the place begins to grow on you, somewhat. Minimally, the fact that they managed to get a baked, desolate, treeless piece of earth to sprout all those orchards and groves is heartening.

Bus to Madras, late night flight to Hyderabad, bed by 4:00 a.m. Weekend. Sigh.

  1. Move to coastal city, pronto.
  2. Buy cycle. Bicycle.
  3. Eat fish. Industrial quantities.
  4. Run.
  5. Live.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I Thoth I Thaw A Thweethybird - Part Deux

Last year, it was a brace of hornbills. Today morning, while one dissolutely plied the toothbrush (the same one as last year!) in the oral cavity, a large bird was spotted flitting about the azadirachta indica outside the window. Large tail, somewhat ungainly. Lo and behold. It is a coucal. We have coucals in Begumpet. Unbelievable. Is this because they chopped down all those trees on SP Road so that the motorists have a wider field of play in which run down (us) hapless pedestrians?

Be that as it may, there be coucals in Begumpet. Who'd have thunk it?

The only question is whether the flitty thing was a greater coucal (centropus sinensis) or a lesser coucal (centropus bengalensis). Damn things are well nigh impossible to tell apart.

It was probably a lesser coucal. Until it strayed within our sphere of influence. Whereby it was elevated to greatness. And is now a greater coucal. Although we doubt if anyone has taken the trouble to inform said couc.

Whaddever, eh?

Friday, March 31, 2006

Ugaadi Madness

0. Happy Ugaadi! Pachadi was had after ages, thanks to kindly neighbour. The Ugaadi pachadi, upon reflection, is a fantastic concept. Somewhat thrilled and glad to belong to a part of the world that could invent this concoction. What better way to begin a new year than to remind yourself that it won't always be rosy, and that the bitter, sour, salty, spicy, astringent and sweet all have their place in the scheme of things. A plausible excuse for eating neem, tamarind, salt, green chillies, mango and jaggery in one go. Peace to the world in Sri Vyaya Naama Ugaadi.

1. Carefully avoid music stores on weekday holidays. Money (too much) was blown yesterday on a weirdly messed up mixture of things.
  • Swathikiranam and Subhasankalpam - We admit it freely. We bought the first VCD to see (again?) what Mammootty looks like in a Telugu movie, and the second because we want to have the damn hailesso song close at hand. Besides, they were really cheap.

  • Ghalib ke kalam se - "Why?", you ask. Not really sure. One reason - to find out what baaziichaa-e-atfaal sounds like when Mohd. Rafi. sings it. Another - to find out what hazaaron khwaaishein aisi sounds like when Lata Mangeshkar sings it. That's about it, really.

  • Entharo Mahanubhavulu, Jon Higgins - Even more curious, why this one? Admittedly Higgins Bhaagavathar is an interesting character and all that. But we really have no clue about 7 out of 9 songs on the CD. But, 9 minus 7 = 2 and there lies the rub. Higgins' endaro mahaanubhaavulu is quite nice (whose isn't?) and we have come to know and love this thillana in Hindolam, so why not? All the krithis on the CD are available at Musicindiaonline.

  • Bluffmaster - That man Keynes and his homosexual intrigues are responsible for this one. The last time he was in Bangalore, he ended up filling our head with febrile visions of Priyanka Chopra's midriff. And then dragged us off to Belur, Halebid and parts west. Leaving us moderately thirsty in the matter of Priyanka Chopra's midriff. What to do? We are like this only.
2. We may have put the caboose before the locomotive, but ended up seeing our first Ingmar Bergman movie last night. It (unfortunately?) turned out to be Bergman's last feature film, Fanny and Alexander. In retrospect, this might be a cardinal mistake. To start off on a director with his last film, without knowing anything whatsoever about the man and his work, seems a bit nonsensical. The commentary track left us with some misgivings about this screwing up of chronology.

Nevertheless, "Fanny and Alexander" is a captivating (albeit rather long) movie, a somewhat autobiographical meditation. Bergman seems to use this film as a chance to tell the world about his formative years (with its fascination for the theatre, the moving image, story telling, fantasy), and also tries to convey what he thinks of life and art, and what is worthwhile and what isn't. A summing up of his own life and philosophy, one imagines. Various theatrical devices are used. Nostalgia, melodrama, horror - all play their part. On the whole, quite satisfying. May need to be borrowed again...

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Love You Take = The Love You Make

Just unbelievably unbelievable. Watch.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Histaree Lecher Undhi

At the choultry, we haven't looked at a proper list in what seems to be aeons. So, without much further ado, a list. On history books. The discerning Gult choultry reader (2 nos.?) will have undoubtedly noticed that we have borrowed from that classic song Botany paatham undi from that classic movie Shiva. Be that as it may, the list beckons...

First, a few words of caution:

(a) We will break our own rules very often, and instead of talking about history books, we will talk about historians themselves
(b) There is some overlap between this post and the book tag post
(c) We tend to be somewhat biased towards military affairs, unfortunately. Forgive us.
(d) We are talking strictly of narrative (mostly non-academic) history books. We do not have the grey matter or attention span necessary for venturing into and partaking of proper textbooks.

And the nominees are:
  • John Keay - You must've seen this coming, no? He is the flavour of the era. We like his stuff (a lot), and have written copiously about him here and here and here. Enough said.

  • The Second Creation (Robert P. Crease, Charles C. Mann) - "Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics". Amma had this lying at home and we read it by and by. We still haven't quite understood a decent chunk of it (on account of it being particle physics and muons and so on), but if you're interested in the history of science, this one is worth the money.

  • Battle Cry Of Freedom (James McPherson) - This single volume history of the American Civil War is quite possibly the best single volume history book on any broad historical subject. An amazing book, learned yet accesible. Don't take it from the choultry, read a review. If you're a history buff, and are even moderately interested in US history, please go and buy this book. Why don't all historians get together and draw chits on which various topics are written, and go off and quietly write a book like this one?

  • Velcheru Narayana Rao, David Shulman - They aren't historians, and between them, they've written mostly books on Dravidian literature and poetry, but more than their analysis of the art, we've come to like their prefaces and afterwords, where they talk about the evolution of their pet subjects. A Poem At The Right Moment: Remembered Verses From Premodern South India and (with Sanjay Subrahmanyam) Textures of Time: Writing History in South India 1600-1800 (this is a more proper historiographical book) are particularly noteworthy.

  • The War Against Hannibal (Titus Livius) - Surely an unexpected entry in the list! Livy wrote some 142 books during his lifetime, of which 35 have survived. Books XXI-XXX (you can read them all, in Latin, here) deal with the Punic wars. The first part has to do with that peerless Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca, and his European excursion, starting in modern-day Spain, into Transalpine and Cisalpine Gaul, and finally into the Italian peninsula proper. The second part has to do with the Roman riposite, in the form of Publius Cornelius Scipio and his expedition to North Africa, culminating in the landmark Battle of Zama.

    Polybius also wrote about the Punic wars, but Livy is particularly enchanting because he identifies so closely with the "good guys", and only has grudging respect for the adversaries. Livy's history is unabashedly partisan, you find him cheering his team on here, defending Roman atrocities there, bad-mouthing Carthage and in general behaving like a Tom Clancy of yore.
Well, that's that. Now we move on to the honourable mentions category:
  • A Short History of World War I (James L. Stokesbury) - A long time back, when our M.S. was dragging on ad infinitum, and we had momentarily tired of civil and uncivil engineering, we signed up for a World War I course and this was the prescribed textbook. Short, yet catholic (inasmuch as WWI is concerned); witty, yet poignant; abominable snowman, yet i. (Heh! Gotcha!!) We have tried to lay our paws on other books by the same author and failed.

  • The Conquest of the Incas (John Hemming) - This was (is?) the "standard" book on the antics of the conquistadores in Peru, and perhaps still is. Good reference value...

  • America: A Narrative History (George Tindall, David E. Shi) - The single volume version of this (even if it is 1000+ pages) could quite possibly compete with "Battle Cry of Freedom" for the top spot in the single volume stakes. Lucidly written, covers a lot of ground, with excellent and timely digressions into the American zeitgeist of whichever period they happen to be dealing with.

  • Alberuni's India (Al-Biruni) - Haven't read the whole thing (it is a bit boring and nitpicky), but Al-Biruni's foreword or preface to the book is memorable. This guy must have been quite something. Nearly a millenium back, he expresses his concern at how biased the book he is about to write might turn out to be, on account of his being an outsider to his subject (India). Several remarks on the pitfalls of writing history, on the notion of the disinterested observer, and on the notion of cultural prisms refracting history (not in so many words, but close 'nuff :)

  • Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire (Jason Goodwin) - A most charming tome written in a fairly unique style; part whimsical brooding - part historical narrative. A fortunate and serendipitous "MacIntyre and Moore" discovery.

  • Assorted - Some random interesting ones: Stillwell and the American Experience in China (Barbara W. Tuchman) is a good read about the China-Burma-India theater of WWII; Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (Lawrence James) was interesting, but might also controversial; The Proudest Day: India's Long Road To Independence (Anthony Read, David Fisher) is also interesting and controversial.
As usual, we are open to interesting suggestions vis a vis narrative history books.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


We can be succinctly described with the sound "Duh!", as far as our knowledge of things musical go. We are known widely to be tone-deaf, and manifestly devoid of iotae of that slippery quality, "good taste". We first heard The Beatles in 1996, and our all-time favourite album (rock and roll) continues to be Abbey Road. For this, many a time, we have been the stork (laughing). Hitherto, we have largely relied on more qualified and fortunate people to provide us with the gyaan necessary to have a non-paleolithic musical conversation ("Nahin yaar, 'Chura ke dil mera, goriya chali' mein Ayesha Jhulka nahin hai bey, tuu 'Gutar gutar' ki soch rahaa hai.").

It was such a one who once wandered over into the Virgin Megstore on Newbury Street, in the company of roomies, who were both vastly more qualified and talented. As we stood about and gazed vacuously at the stud in Christina's belly-button, in the distance, we descried said roomies standing at one of those music-listening-station thingumajigs, apparently having a good time. We trundled over, accepted headphones, and plonked them on melon. What was playing was incomprehensible, but utterly captivating and foot-tapping. We bought the CD, and recently dug it up from amongst the debris at home.

First, there was Raï. A form of folk music that originated in Oran from Bedouin shepherds, Raï (which means "opinion" in Arabic) mixed with Spanish, French, Arabic and other forms of music to give rise to its modern version. Among the more famous practitioners are Cheb Mami and Khaled (who obsessed about his elder sister and even wrote a very popular song about her).

Be that as it may, even as Rai was making waves around the world, unbeknownst to many, the improbably named Takfarinas was
...forging his own sound, a sort of musical esperantos deriving from the Kabyle songs of the last century. He named it "Yal music" after the rhythmic vocalized syllable "yal...laaa yal...lalala," which is inseparable from Kabyle song...
So Takfarinas' YAL was the CD that we bought many aeons ago, on a whim, and lived to not regret it. You can listen to samples on the Barnes & Noble website, and his most famous and excellent song Zaama Zaama (oddly enough very Rai-ish) is the one that had us foot-tapping on Newbury. The original Takfarinas was apparently some kind of Berber cheftain, who dished out an uncommon defeat to the Romans around 25 B.C. There is a review of the album at, and the CD should be easily available in the West.

"Yal" has a most unique sound, and it will surely appeal to desis, on account of its fusion of a relatively melody-centric North African art form, with what can concisely be described as dhingchak dhingchak.

With that, Secoues-toi comme si comme ça, zaama zaama C´est bon ! tu aimes ça, zaama zaama...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

One Nation State's Freedom...

What really prompted this post ultimately, is the fact that a few months back, we extended a slimy tentacle and bought ourselves a Worldspace receiver and subscription. Unf. at the time, we had grandiose plans of buying a decent set of speakers, CD/DVD player and so on. So instead of buying a boombox type receiver, we bought the Diva. Its nice and compact, but one needs headphones. Which means that suddenly one has a (very small) radius of operation when one is listening to the radio.

Anyway, night after night, we lie prone on the bed next to this thing, and listen to some radio before dropping off into blissful, snory, slumber. A number of interesting channels are available, but old habits die hard and more often than not, we're listening to NPR. It isn't quite WBUR, but we've managed to catch some Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Day to Day, and even the Motely Fool fellas. No, have never heard Car Talk yet, maybe they don't broadcast it on the international edition of NPR or whatever, this remains crib #1 with NPR on Worldspace.

Be that as it may, a couple of days back, Day to Day carried a small segment on the ongoing DP World controversy. This set off a train of thought. "Whaaa...?", some of you say.


DP World is a Dubai government owned undertaking that is in the business of port operations and stevedoring in a number of ports across the world. So far, they seem to have a more or less unblemished record of operating port and container facilities in places such as Adelaide, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Jeddah, Djibouti, Vizag, Cochin, and ports in Germany, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. All this has been going on quietly for several years.

DP World is in the process of acquiring the British based port operator P&O for the neat sum of $6.85 billion. P&O of course, stands for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and appear to have been around since the Norman Conquest. If you were a young Brit officer, recently inducted into the Indian Civil Services or the Indian Army, chances were that you'd take a P&O liner from Southampton to Rangoon or wherever. Sofa, so good (said the furniture salesman).

The controversy stems from the fact that P&O has operations in several (6?) US ports. Critics of the deal say that if the DP World bid is successful, effectively an Arab government will be in control of American ports, and this could lead to security issues. There is an FAQ type thing on this. At the moment, there is a terrible ruckus about this in the US Congress. The people's representatives have all thrown up their hands in horror, while Bushy is saying he will torpedo any bid to torpedo the deal. Some interesting questions emerge.
  1. DP World has been running ports in a dozen other countries, so why the foofah now?
  2. Many months ago DP World bought the international terminal chunk CSX, a biggish transportation and logistics company with significant presence in the eastern US. This went through with nary a whimper.
  3. Finally, port security in the US has not been anything to write home about. The sheer volume of the problem is unbelievable. Only a fraction of the containers entering the US get examined by Customs or other security agencies, and you wouldn't need to spend $6.85 billion if your intention was to be naughty.
What to make of it?


Perhaps this one is from more familiar territory - the Mittal-Arcelor takeover bid. In late January 2006, the world's largest steelmaker Mittal Steel announced their intention to buy Arcelor shares and take over that company. This resulted in the most almighty ballyhoo.

Arcelor's board rejected the bid, stating that the two companies' "business and cultural values" were incompatible. Takeovers usually involve job cuts, and are therefore inherently political, so Lakshmi Mittal (who heads Mittal Steel) had to meet French and Luxembourg politicians and offer assurances on the job front. Things began to get ugly-ish with impressive speed.

Arcelor started to spin the takeover as a "raider with foreign values".
Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, warned against giving into economic "laws of the jungle." A former French finance minister referred to Mr. Mittal as "an Indian predator," although his company is traded and based in Europe and he hasn't lived in India for 30 years. Mr. Dollé, the Arcelor boss, said Rotterdam-based Mittal Steel is a "company full of Indians" that wants to buy his with "monnaie de singe." The expression means "monopoly money"--Mittal's offer is mostly shares--but the literal translation is "monkey money." That double-entendre wasn't lost on people.



Not so much in the realm of business and corporations, but tangentially related... David Irving has gained notoriety in recent years as a Holocaust denier. At one time, Irving was fairly well-known for the thoroughness and academic rigour that he brought to his work. In early 2000 (perhaps even earlier), he became a fairly controversial historian for denying the Holocaust. More specifically, for denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. This happened in the course of a libel trial, in which Irving sued Prof. Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books for claiming that he was a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite.

Irving lost the case, was defiant in defeat, received support from Iranian newspaper, was ordered to pay 150,000 GBP towards defence costs, and was soon bankrupt.

Things were quiet for about three years. In November 2005, while on a visit to Austria, Irving was arrested by ze Polizei. Now Austria, along with a number of European countries (including Germany), have laws which make Holocaust denial a criminal offence. He was charged, refused bail, amazingly admitted his mistake, and was jailed for 3 years.

All of this happened, fortuitously enough, at the same time that the EXHIBIT D tamasha was in full cry.


The Danish cartoon tamasha. Enough said.

Consider A, B, C, and D above. Hypocrisy? Pragmatism? Sympathy? Racism? Who's to judge, and how?

Effin huge post. We are pooped. So, PJ.

"Who wrote 'The Spy Who Came In With The Cold'?"

"Iam Phlegming"

Urk. We actually invented this one, and are very proud.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Ich bin Tagged

Oooooooooo!!! We've been tagged, we've been tagged, we've been tagged!!! [Skips up and down] This is very flattering, we are positively shouting from the rooftops, I say. We have also been accused of making lists, we haven't made lists in ages! Time has lists, but do you see anyone tagging Time? No, sirree.

Be that as it may (and it is), this tag is an 'n' interesting. If you're wondering what 'n' means, we'll have to do '3-dimensional surrender', 'general Olympics' and deesh.

Total number of books owned

We make a distinction between 'owned', and 'bought'. Rough estimates on the latter are 300-350 in Hyderabad, maybe 2 dozen in Vizag, and about a dozen that have been 'borrowed'. If, however, we speak of 'owned', there is a whole wall of crumbly books that is sitting in Vizag that we will inherit. That is, shortly after we have gagged and bound the sibling and dropped her into one of her precious croc pits, and laced amma's tea with some suitably humane toxin.

Last book(s) we bought

This was on Saturday. At Walden, we bought John Keay's When Men and Mountains Meet : The Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1820-1875 and Confronting Love, edited by Jerry Pinto and Arundhati Subramaniam. We then proceeded to waddle over to Odyssey (mainly for the cafe), and mysteriously ended up buying India Discovered by a certain John Keay (Yes, we've decided to own all John Keays. Our recommendation to donors is that when that "Got to give Ludwig a book!!!" impulse seizes you, check with us, and give us a Keay we do not own yet. We will grovel at your Lotus feet in abject humility and gratitude.)

Last books(s) we read

The broken record continues. We read Sowing The Wind. We also re-read a bunch of books we'd already read, but what's the fun in that?

Books we are currently reading

Apart from dipping into the ones we bought this weekend, we are engaged in concurrently reading Pillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux and another book. We really like Theroux because he is observatory (yes, his pet name is Jantar Mantar) and sarcastic, and sympathetic when necessary. If we could, we would make a living out of doing what Theroux did. We also like Theroux because he grew up in Meffid, and he keeps referring to Meffid, and Summahville and Cambridge, and Baws'hn in his writings. We may have done some long runs near his house when we were circumambulating the Mystic Lakes in the summer of '03.

We are also re-dipping into The Riemann Hypothesis. One of these days, we'll understand the whole damn thing, prove (or disprove) it, pocket a cool million, and retire.

Five books that we have really enjoyed or influenced me

Five? Five??? This seems to be the response that all self respecting reader types seem to be giving to this koschan. Nevertheless, we will shamelessly plagiarize an idea floated by the jester and and idea floated by the individual under the influence of infusions made from an Amazonian giant vine, and implement here.


Somerset Maugham - Of Human Bondage
Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird
J.R.R.Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings, Silmarillon (when you're a certain age and are at certain institutes, this can't be helped, sorry)
Lawrence Durrell - The Alexandria Quartet
R.K.Narayan - Swami and Friends

Also Jack Kerouac - On The Road, Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment, Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient, Kazuo Ishiguro - Remains of the Day, Haruki Murakami - Wild Sheep Chase, Kiran Nagarkar - Seven Sixes are Forty Three and so on. This is really pointless.


John Keay - The Honourable Company (well, this was the first, but needed to be read)
James McPherson - Battle Cry of Freedom
Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs and Steel
V. Narayana Rao, David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyam - Textures of Time: Writing History in South India
Crease & Mann - The Second Creation


Stephen Dobyns - Pallbearers Envy The One Who Rides
Coleman Barks's Rumi book
Various - Making Love To Marilyn Monroe
V. Narayana Rao, David Shulman - A Poem at the Right Moment: Remembered Verses from Pre-modern South India. This is a must have. [Nudges violently :)]
Constantine Cavafy - The Complete Poems of Constantine Cavafy

This is getting tiresome, we stop here. There are several other 'influential' books (Alistair Maclean who set off the whole Navy obsession, Commando comics which set off the whole Rommel obsession, Rani Mukherjee who set off the whole Jibanananda Das obsession, Ruskin Bond who set off the Himalaya obsession, Kenneth Anderson who set off the whole South Indian wildlife obsession and so on).

Books we plan to buy next

Bit of a mystery. Only definite ones in mind are the Keay books, and Kolatkar's Kala Ghoda poems. This one we've been looking for high and low and not been able to find in Hyderabad.

Books that caught our attention but we have never read

Oh God, so many.

James Joyce - Pretty much everything, but Ulysses mostly
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Again, everything
Milan Kundera - Ditto
J.M.Coetzee - Ditto

And so on.

Books we own but have never got around to reading

Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace (Hello, Veena)
Douglas Hofstadter - Godel, Escher, Bach (started, but haven't finished, yet)
John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath
Voltaire - Candide
Lawrence Durrell - The Avignon Quintet

People we are passing this on to

The loblolly, who never ceases to remind us how well-read she is; Srin, who with the addition of movie star hair has become a bona fide celebrity (even if she questions the existence of sepia); Deski, who has cooked a number of bun-omlettes and is waiting for public to consume; young Thos., maybe this will get him to post something finally; and Anand, because he will definitely have something interesting to say.