If you know what I mean…
Being sick of this cement land we decided to hop on to our bicycles and make the 14 km journey home!
I lived in Singapore for four years. You can find there, numerous tourist attractions which are frequented by thousands of tourists from across the world. While all of them will make it a point to visit the merlion, sentosa island and more recently, the Integrated Resorts - Marina Bay Sands and RWS, no tour group from Australia leaves Singapore without visiting the Changi Chapel.
When the Allied Garrison at Singapore surrendered on 14th February, the Australian Prisoners of War were held in terrible conditions at the Changi Prison. The Australian POWs constructed the Chapel during their captivity and though the one presently existing at Changi is only a replica, it is a must visit spot for any Australian to pay homage to those who fought for the nation.
War time Singapore, also features in an important episode of the Indian Freedom Struggle. Singapore was the seat of Subhash Chandra Bose’s government in exile, the Azad Hind government, and his Indian National Army. While the Changi Chapel is in a distant corner of the island, the site of the Indian National Army monument is right in the heart of the city at the esplanade park near Cathay. However, I am yet to see it featured on even a single Indian tour group’s itinerary. Thousands of Indian tourists visiting Singapore blissfully give it a miss preferring extra time at the beach to a glimpse into Indian history and military heritage. (though, the present Indian Army is the descendant of the British Indian Army, Bose’s INA also most definitely constitutes our military heritage in my opinion).
Today is 16th December, “Vijay Diwas” in India. Forty-two years ago, to this day, Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, Commander of the Eastern Command (Pakistan) signed the ‘Instrument of Surrender’ surrendering the Pakistani forces to Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora at the Ramna Race Course in Dhaka.
Today, the only mention of this occasion that I came across, was this tweet by the Army -
It seems like the even is only celebrated by the military units. Today, in my opinion, it does not bring out any special emotions and is not of much significance for the ‘aam admi’, the common man.
It is a really deplorable state of affairs in my opinion. Hardly anybody remembers that more than 3800 Indian servicemen laid down their lives for the defence of India in the west and Liberation of Bangladesh in the East in 1971. The commemoration ceremony today took place at the eternal flame near India Gate, a monument originally built to honour the 80000+ British and Indian dead in the First World War and the Afghan War of 1919.
Don’t the 1971 heroes deserve a memorial? Why not have a national monument in their honour?
Though it is far from enough, 1971 atleast jogs the memory of some Indians. I am sure atleast one Indian news channel shall put up some old footage together about the Bangladesh Liberation War.
But come 11th November, Remembrance Day, it is simply another day in India as if we were unaffected by the first world war as if that peace which took effect on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year, had no relation to India. However, the fact is that hundreds of thousands of the Indian Army fought honourably on the allied side, receiving 18 Victoria Crosses and more than 74000 laid down their lives during the Great War. Indian army website has the details here.
Similarly, in the Second World War, the Indian Army not only served with distinction in Burma and Indo China but also played a key role in North Africa and Europe. With 2.5 million men, it was the largest volunteer army of the world at the time. Indian army website has the details here.
The two most well known memorials to the Indian dead of the World Wars – the India Gate and the Kohima War Cemetery were both constructed during the colonial era. Today, nobody in India wears the poppy as in the rest of the Commonwealth to commemorate those who lost their lives in the First World War and India’s contribution in the two World Wars is being fast forgotten. In addition to the common man’s apathy some blame must also lie on the Indian Government and the Army because while the Army website, has detailed information about operations till 1948, it states : Post 1948 Operations Are Classified, Hence Not Mentioned. <link>
Interestingly enough, while many Indians may hardly be able to point out Kohima on a map, while on his visit to India last year, Prince Andrew did make it a point to visit the Kohima War Cemetery.
War memorials and days of remembrance are not a celebration of war. Infact, they usually depict the heavy human cost of war. It makes me sad that a vast majority of India does not remember the martyrs. They were afterall, fighting for us. The Kohima Epitaph -
“When you go home tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, We gave our today.”
When the Finance Minister announced during his budget speech that the government was planning to start a Bhartiya Mahila Bank, I fervently hoped that it would remain an idea and not actually come to fruition. However, we now have to face the reality of the existence of the Bhartiya Mahila Bank which was inaugurated on the birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi yesterday.
Other banks are now “not-mahila-bank”
Daughter : Dad, the new SBI bank branch that in our village is seeking depositors. They were distributing these account opening forms today. Can I open an account there please!? Pleaaasseee. I also want my own account like bhaiyya.
Dad : No no. What do you need a bank account for? Anyway that bank isn't for you. If you do want you can get an account in the Mahila bank when it comes to our village.
This is a conversation which might be taking place in many orthodox families today. By branding the BMB as a mahila bank, I believe that with one stroke, the government sends the false message that all other banks, pvt or PSUs are not really for women. By creating a special bank that aims to encourage and provide access to banking for women, the government has completely disregarded the fact that all banks are completely capable of providing access to banking for women, have been doing so and should continue.
The Bank's first seven branches are slated to open in Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Guwahati, Chennai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad which are all urban centres and completely unlikely to have the problem of women lacking access to banks at all!
Consider this, the BMB’s own targets are – 25 branches by 2014 and 770 branches by 2020. Even if it achieves this target or exceeds it, the BMB shall have only a very small fraction of branches as compared to the other PSU banks.
So why this gimmick? Why not use the existing bank and their existing branch network. There is nothing that can justify a special bank.
Segregation is not Empowerment
At the inauguration ceremony of the bank, the Finance Minister emphasised that the bank wasn’t merely a symbol but that it was true empowerment of women. The claim is downright absurd. The message that the government sends by setting up a new bank ‘for women’ are -
Thus, in no way is there any message of the bank empowering women. There is nothing to show that segregation of the sexes leads to women empowerment. By its very definition the concept of segregation is against the concept of equality.
No Bank can be a Mahila Bank
Very often many of the depositors of a bank and almost always, a majority of the entities obtaining loans from a bank are companies and trusts. These are artificial persons without any gender. A bank’s customers can never be al individual natural persons of one gender. Any bank has to seek to make its own profits and thus in the ordinary course of its business, a bank has to serve various types of customers.
Hence, the concept of a Mahila bank is flawed in itself and even the BNB that has been established is a fullfledged commercial bank that shall serve all customers regardless of their gender and its name is merely a misnomer. It is now an allegedly unique bank with nothing to set it apart except for its exceptionally poor branch and ATM network (atleast for the initial years).
The Mahila Bank is hence a solution that no one was asking for and also one that is likely to worsen the problem which it set out solve. When the question is asked a few years from now “What did the Mahila Bank achieve?”, the government is not going to have any answer.
Logo Image Source : Wikipedia
A recent class discussion in which @theneotorious @bakbakee and @zahra_aziz24 actively debated upon the alternative electoral systems for India, reminded me of a speech given by Mr. Ajit Abhyankar, secretary of the CPI (M) Pune District committee at a recent seminar held at ILS Law College Pune. Of all the different electoral reforms suggested that day, the model which he suggested that day seemed the most appropriate to me in the Indian context. Here’s how it goes -
While some of my friends are going to pay steep ticket prices to catch a paid preview of the latest SRK starrer today, I have been enjoying Chennai Express for more than a week now!
In what is probably a first for a bollywood film, the producers, Red Chillies Entertainment, hired Indiagames Ltd. to create a game in order to promote the film. The game is available on Google Play and probably on the Apple AppStore too! It is officially titled – Chennai Express : Escape from Rameshwaram
The game is a really enjoyable and Indianised version of the popular game “Subway Surfer”. Similar to the Subway Surfer or Temple Run theme, Chennai Express begins with you i.e. SRK running through the streets of Rameshwaram while a huge enemy chases with a longsword.
While the basics of the game remain the same old skills of jumping, sliding and changing lanes in time, Chennai Express manages to distinguish itself by giving a uniquely Indian feel to the players since unlike other games, the obstacles include autorickshaws, overloaded busses and coconut water vendors’ carts. The obstacles of Incredible India coupled with the background imagery of temples and authentic looking houses makes the player feel truly in India and sets the game apart from other titles on which it is based.
The objective of the game remains to earn maximum points but there are more ways to do that apart from collecting the gold coins that the streets of Rameshwaram are littered with. The gameplay includes special elements such as collecting diamonds whose worth is several times than the gold coins. One extra feature which distinctively sets apart Chennai Express from Subway Surfer is the added element of fighting enemies. In Chennai Express, a helicopter periodically drops lathi wielding local enemies in your path and you cannot jump over or slide under them. The way to beat them is to use the punch button before they have an opportunity to use their lathis. Apart from the punch button, the last distinguishing feature of Chennai Express is the timer. Unlike other similar games, Chennai Express is time bound and you have to attempt your highscore within those 90 sec only.
With many popular features such as - coin attracting magnet, ability to temporarily fly and collect bonus coins – being directly taken from Subway Surfer, I am sure many people shall deride this game for being a poor copy. However, I think that though it maybe based on the concept of other games, the developers have managed to add enough exciting and distinctive elements to make it wonderfully unique. The game is not meant to be an all time classic anyway and is designed simply to attract interest to the movie in short run. Looking at the background of the game I think the developers have done a great job and it shall keep me entertained for a couple of weeks at the least.
I am hoping this game shall set a trend and am looking forward to more such movie linked games from India.
Do try out this game and tell me what you think. Here is the Google Play link.
Just be sure not to hit any obstacle or this shall be your fate …
On 13th June, I read the clever headline, “Telegram serious, start immediately”, ironically enough on the web edition of the Calcutta daily called “The Telegraph”.
Till that day, the words “taar” and “telegram” had never entered my world except for in the old anecdotes told by my grandparents. This was the medium in which they had received some of the best and worst news of their life. Similarly, in so many old novels, the telegram bearer always draws out a very wide range of emotions. It struck me that me and my friends were going to be a generation which shall miss out on those feelings and this tremendous medium of communication that had ushered in the information revolution of its time.
And so my mind was made up, I shall send a telegram before the service breathed its last in India.
Being an amateur philatelist, I knew of the telegram service’s existence but having twitter, whatsapp, facebook messenger and much more on my android phone, I never had to use the service ever before. Since in the stories I had heard that the postmen delivered these telegrams I turned up at the post office looking to send a telegraph, only to be told (very curtly) that the post I was at didn’t handle telegrams since the Central Telegraph Office was in the vicinity.The Central Telegraph Office is a building that I had walked past every single day in that week, but ignored. It housed BSNL offices and it was there I could send a telegram from. This is because in the year 1994, BSNL took over the telegram system from the post but in some form of weird symbiosis, apparently still depends on them for the last step of delivery as far as I can tell.
As I entered the office, I had to look around and ask a couple of times, for telegram services are now manned by a single counter while all the other counters are dedicated to other services. Why BSNL needs counters and posters advertising its mobile services in MUMBAI is kind of beyond me but I didn’t enquire much and headed for the telegram counter. There I first faced these two signs -
The image on the left gives standard telegram phrase codes. These phrase charts are available with all the offices and using them, a long standard phrase can be sent for minimum cost of telegram. The other image showed that my little fun telegram endeavour would have been much cheaper before April 2012 when the rates were increased from Rs. 1.50 to Rs. 28 as the minimum cost of a telegram.
However, regardless of the cost I had to send one before the service died out and I decided not to use a standard phrase so that I write a message of my own.
In the enthusiasm of finding out how to send a telegram, I had not had much time to decide what to send and to who and these were the questions that I faced as I took the form the person at the counter. The form was printed on paper so thin and old that it could very well have been from the 1800s. Since it was no festive occasion and since I had neither good nor bad news to spread, I decided to send a congratulatory message to my friend Mr. GP* who had just been offered an internship at a reputed company.
* -See this older post to read about how we sampled the food at the Good Luck Cafe, the only Mumbai eatery which serves Emu meat.
Twitter has kept the awkward phrasing spirit of telegram alive today by virtue of its character limit. In the older telegram technology the limit is of words since each word after the first few costs extra. PM Nehru’s famous diplomatic telegram to PM Atlee in 1947 about Kashmir, is believed to be long by telegram standards and even that consists only of 230 words. (You can see the transcript here)
I believed that for an innocent first timer I had done well. I thought I had written a 22 word telegram (or 24 words with my name) which would cost me the minimum charge of Rs. 28 since that was the cost for the first 30 words.
That unfortunately familiar feeling of reading the telephone bill and finding that you have to pay for absurd Value-Added-Services that you don’t need or you never knew were chargeable in the first place, it hit me when the person at the counter asked me to fork out Rs. 35 though I was confident of having stuck to 30 words. Apparently I had to pay for the words in the address though nobody had bothered to tell that.
It was then that I could accept that telegram is indeed the predecessor and ancestor of the telephone. There is absolutely nothing defines telephone service providers as much as hidden and unexpected charges do.
Shockingly enough, there was no same day delivery inspite of the fact that I was sending a telegram within the city with the destination no more than 20-30 km away. When it finally arrived 3 days later, Mr. GP had a good laugh and sent me this photograph below which shows that it arrived at the Andheri Telegraph office within 3 hours but they somehow took 3 days to deliver it. I have heard from others that apparently more serious messages especially carrying the news of any death are delivered faster.
Interestingly enough, perhaps in order to ensure that the traditional mystery and enigma surrounding the technology is not lost, the message came with lines of random text at the bottom below the words.
Though the delivery delay was slightly miffing, I enjoyed the experience of sending a telegram before the service closed down for good.
The last telegram in India will be sent on 14th July and the service has already been long dead in most of the countries around the world. So, if you want to take benefit of this old time tech to send something to your friend, you just have one week left!
Interning at an office in South Bombay has meant that I found time to and had to go to several colonial buildings including the Bombay High Court, the Esplanade Centre of Magistrates’ Courts, the Central Telegraph Office and the Victoria Terminus (now – CST).
I noticed a common feature in these beautiful public buildings built in the late 1800s or early 1900s. To ensure transparency, these buildings carry a great many details on their prominently displayed plaques. These plaques have details of not only when was the building sanctioned and who built it but also about the chief designers, engineers and most importantly the difference between the estimated and final costs of the project.
Take a look at this plaque at the Central Telegraph Office*.
* – The image says General Post Office because it was built as the GPO but later on when the present GPO building was built it was made the Central Telegraph Office.
The very detailed plaque above shows that the massive building was completed in just about three years from 1869 to 1872 and that the actual cost of ₨. 5,94,200 was actually about five thousand rupees lesser than the sanctioned cost of ₨. 5,99,992.
This plaque is infact a tool of accountability and transparency. The name of the architect along with the names of those who were incharge of the construction is out there literally etched in stone for everyone to see.
Another example of such a plaque is the image below (taken from http://www.greatmirror.com) which I believe is of the building presently housing the Maharashtra Archives.
Let’s bring back this practice…
This practice of elaborate plaques has been almost completely abandoned today. I don’t remember seeing any post-independence building or structure of which so many details including the name of the architect and the cost of construction is available on the structure itself. While plaques still exist they tend to only highlight the names of the so called VIPs who inaugurated it.
With several infrastructure projects and public buildings in Bombay (and other parts of India as well) being way behind schedule and extremely over budget, this could be an effective way to put pressure on contractors to finish on time an within budget because if the don’t, their shortcomings would be on display for the world to see, for ages to come. It is also a transparency mechanism since when the people see how many taxpayers’ rupees were spent on a particular building or project they would be able to gauge for themselves if it was money well spent.
In our hurry to move forward and progress, it is not really wise to leave behind the wisdom of the past!
Do comment and let me know if you have ever seen in Bombay,a modern building plaque that states anything apart from the name of the VIP or VVIP who inaugurated it!
A Vegetarian is a person who doesn’t eat meat and a Non-Vegetarian is a person who does. That is how I see it. I can never understand people who claim to love or require a hefty quantity of meat every week but still balk at the idea of having anything except chicken and mutton. As for me, if there is something exotic, I want to try it!
Literally months having passed since I had snake meat soup in Taiwan, when Mr. GP told me that Emu meat is now available in Mumbai I had to have it! So on one overcast Saturday evening, Mr. GP and I headed to the old Iranian Good Luck Cafe in Bandra West (Mumbai). The place is pretty easy to find and only a short autorikshaw ride away from the Bandra station. Mehboob studio opposite the cafe is a well known landmark in the area.
The Emu !
Chicken Biryani !
Though the Rs. 100 emu kheema is more costly than a usual plate of kheema, the quantity is nowhere enough to be filling for anybody and we went on to order the Chicken Tikka Biryani since the cafe does not offer any other emu meat dishes. The Chicken Biryani was rather satisfying, fragrant and the chikken tikka in it weren’t burnt or overdone in anyway. It was enjoyable enough but I have tendency to get annoyed with places that do not serve raita along with the Biryani by default. Also, as Mr. GP rightly pointed out to me, the Biryani was slightly less spicy than it is at other eateries and we would have enjoyed more, a slightly spicier version.
Irani Chai !
Any true Mumbaikar knows that it is blasphemy to leave an Iranian Cafe without having the chai so we ordered “broom maska and chai” as the last course in our dinner. They served us ‘bun maska’ (on being asked they claimed kadak pav is available only in the mornings) and tea in paper cups! Why they serve tea in paper cups to customers dining inside the restaurant is beyond me but the quality made up for the lack of presentation and I had another cup before leaving.
The Emus are from Gujarat !
Right outside the cafe is this huge board advertising the main attraction, “Emu Kheema”. The claim is that Emu meat is 98% fat free and thus healthier than other meats. Interestingly enough, it is advertised as ‘red meat’, and not ‘poultry’ as I imagined it would be. On talking to the person at the counter, I learnt that their supplier runs an emu farm with 40000 birds in Gujarat! Gujarat, the land of vegetarianism of all places. Most of the meat is sent abroad and very little to Mumbai I was told. He mentioned about it being expensive at Rs. 600 a kilo for him perhaps as an explanation for the tiny quantity they serve. I hope some Infocity entrepreneur, Gandhinagar makes good use of this locally available meat to relieve the craving of meat hungry GNLUites.
The cafe is very clean, spacious, well lit and modern looking meaning that it is more of a middle range restaurant than the stereo typical Irani Cafe in Mumbai. So if you are looking for that kind of rickety wooden seating then this is not it. We saw at least three four families who had come for dinner apart from the usual Irani cafe crowd of men looking for special chai.
There were many more tasty looking items (such as Chicken Shawarma) on the Good Luck Cafe menu that we didn’t try. At the end of the day, despite the underwhelming emu, it was a satisfying meal which cost us less than Rs. 200 per head. I wouldn’t go there again or recommend anyone to go there just for the emu unless the come up with items like emu tikka which shall let us appreciate the meat better than kheema.
It is trend. In first semester when I was supposed to be studying Torts, I used to feel like reading Public International Law. Then when I was doing a PIL moot I felt like reading landmark Constitutional Law judgements. When it was the deadline for moot memo submission neared, I spent a great amount of time reading about a by-election in Singapore and other random things. Tonight, when I am supposed to be reading WTO Panel reports and other material for, I am actually flipping through a (borrowed) Constitution Bare Act.
I know, I should totally be looking through Seervai and other treatises on Constitution to find out true intention behind the introduction of the following Articles in the Constitution of India but then blogging about this is easier. Here are the Articles that baffle and hopefully, someone can enlighten.
A sum of forty-six lakhs and fifty thousands rupees shall be charged on, and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the State of Kerala every year to the Travancore Devaswom Fund; and a sum of thirteen lakhs and fifty thousand rupees shall be charged on, and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the State of Tamil Nadu, every year to the Devaswom Fund established in that State for the maintenance of Hindu temples and shrines in the territories transferred to that State on the 1st day of November, 1956, from the State of Travancore-Cochin.
Transferring taxpayer funds to temples directly? What happened to being a secular republic? What is it all about? I am guessing it is some concession made to princely ruler of Travancore to get him to accede to the Union but it is still just absurd. Why Indira Gandhi didn’t get rid of this along with the Privy Purses is beyond me.
Parliament may by law provide for the establishment of a University in the State of Andhra Pradesh
Hello dear MPs! Didn’t it occur to you that you could directly pass an Act to that effect rather than making a provision in the constitution? I suspect they were just being lazy and instead of actually drafting a law (which presumably shall be a very long, detailed act), they just threw in a one liner into the Constitution via the 32nd Amendment.
If constitution articles have feelings, this one must be feeling pointedly neglected and ignored especially since several volumes of books, endless debates and even agitations have taken place over its nearby neighbour, Article 370, while nobody cares about this one.
(1) There shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India in each year as grants-in- aid of the revenues of the States of Assam, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal, in lieu of assignment of any share of the net proceeds in each year of export duty on jute and jute products to those States, such sums as may be prescribed.
(2) The sums so prescribed shall continue to be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India so long as any export duty on jute or jute products continues to be levied by the Government of India or until the expiration of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution whichever is earlier.
(3) In this article, the expression "prescribed" has the same meaning as in article 270.
Firstly, I don’t really understand the purpose behind having this provision at all. Secondly, what is the status now? Is it now totally redundant since ten years have long passed? Why hasn’t any one of the hundred Constitutional Amendments repealed it?
The Constituent Assembly also used to sit as the unicameral provisional parliament, this is probably a result of one of the days when they were confused about which capacity they were sitting in! This is far from a fundamental issue and could have easily been dealt with without having an Article in the Constitution.
Being used to finding definition clauses in the first couple of sections of any Act, I was stunned when I first saw that the Constitution has more than one Article having marginal note ‘definitions’. This is the most generic definitions Article in the Constitution and included in the 30+ clauses of the Articles are gems like -
(3) "Article" means an article of this Constitution;
(16) "Part" means a Part of this Constitution;
(23) "Schedule" means a Schedule to this Constitution;
This Constitution may be called the Constitution of India.
393! Did you see that? 393! Undoubtedly the most simple Article, why is it not Article #1? Why leave it till much much later?
Much has been said about our Constitution being the longest in the world. I do largely agree with view that there is nothing wrong with having a long constitution if it helps to make clear the provisions. However, that said, it is ridiculous how amendments have burdened the constitution with redundant and extremely context specific Articles which have no general implication.
The word ‘Constitution’ by itself gives the impression to every person that it is likely to be a document containing the most fundamental principles of governance rather than a collection of random provisions inserted to suit the need of the government and then forgotten.
There is one clause which is so specific that it applies only to one particular1987 proclamation of emergency due to breakdown in constitutional machinery of the state in Punjab.
It is high time that the constitution be rid of the many absurd, redundant provisions! I suggest that the parliament consider a “Constitutional clean up Amendment”!
If nothing else, a smaller constitution shall mean cheaper bare acts and make the law students happy! :P
Image of the Constituent Assembly is from the Wikimedia Commons.
Link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_Constituent_Assembly.JPG
“In matters of climbing long staircases, how many stairs there are is not as important as how strong a will you have!”
― Mehmet Murat Ildan
Hope to revive this blog from this Christmas Day! :)
Also, as you may have noticed, I have started using Instagram!