Sunday, August 19, 2007

If you had only 'Four Hours In Chennai'

Newsweek, the second largest weekly in the USA, in it's International Edition has a section '4 hours in' featuring what not to miss in a city when a traveller is in Transit and has only a few hours to spare. The issue dated June 18 features, namma Chennai. Read through this interesting piece reproduced from the Newsweek which tells what a traveller can do to get the essence of Chennai. Do you think something important has been missed out? Do leave your comments.

Four Hours In Chennai - Jason Overdorf
Once known as Madras, India's fourth largest city is known as the unofficial capital of the jasmine-and-sandalwood-scented south.

VISIT the ancient Kapa-leeswarar temple, devoted to the Hindu god Shiva (Kutchery Road, Mylapore; 4 a.m.-noon and 4-8 p.m.).

EAT tiffin, the all-purpose south Indian meal of idlis (fluffy steamed rice cakes), dosas (slightly sour pancakes made from fermented rice and lentil flour) and vadas (tiny, spicy doughnuts) at Saravana Bhavan (77 Usman Road, T. Nagar;

STROLL through the botanical gardens of the Theosophical Society, which include a 400-year-old banyan tree once thought to be the largest in the world (Adyar Bridge Road; 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 2-4 p.m., Monday-Saturday).

SHOP for silk saris at Sri Kumaran Stores (45 Usman Road, T. Nagar; or Nalli (100 Usman Road, T. Nagar;

Source NewsWeek
Photo: The Kapaleeshwar temple with it's pond in all it's splendor thanks to the recent spell of Rains and Rain-Water Harevsting!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sivaji (சிவாஜி): Movie Review

The Movie opens with a masked man being taken through thousands of chest beating men and women and locked up in the central prison, when a co-prisoner asks him what crime he had committed, Super-Star turns around to say 'I tried to do good for the Country' and then Sivaji turns into flash back mode. Not a typical opening scene for a Rajnikanth film, but then this one's a Shankar film!

Without giving anything away, Sivaji, is about Software Engineer returning from the USA with 200 Crore Rupees to realise his dream of building engineering and medical colleges that provide free education on merit and how he has to endure bureaucratic red-tapism and corruption like the rest of us have to, when we go to any government office. Then there's the baddie Suman, who plays the quintessential businessman trying to undermine a potential competitor to his own engineering & medical college 'business' with every crooked method possible. In the meanwhile Sivaji manages to find a typical Tamil girl, Shriya, to fall in love with, woo her and dance around. When the twists and turns of the movie leave him penniless, how our Superstar fights back is the Second half. If you'll find Rajni as Sivaji rocking, just wait for climax when Rajni as MGR simply blows you away! MGR? Yup! that's suspense ;)

Rajni as Sivaji looks a good 25 years younger and pulls of another stellar performance in typical Rajni style, the chewing gum replaces Cigarette but the rest is pure Rajni formula. Shriya as the typical Tamil girl performs as much as her role allows her to, but is nothing more than a glam doll as in most Tamil movies. Vivek as Sivaji's side-kick seems a tad under utilised but then that's the way you feel about everyone else except Rajni in the film.

There are no mannerisms or punch lines to imitate, when Sivaji wants to deliver a punch line Vivek stops him and takes a dig at the rising stars of Cinema and walks away with all the claps! The Camera work and the sets deserve a mention, the music by A.R. Rahman are already topping the charts all around. The fight sequences give you a sense of déjà vu, there's nothing new but they're highly stylised. Like in any Shankar movie there's an over dose of computer generated effects and the songs are well shot in grand style, when you watch those you'll realise what went into the making of Indian Cinema's most expensive film ever.

The film delivers a social message against 'Black Money' and exhorts movie goers to 'realise the dream' of a developed India, but, falls terribly short on story and logic. Not a typical Shankar film, but then, this one's a Rajni film! Am I contradicting myself? No I'm not! There's something for the Rajni fan and something for those expecting another classy one from Shankar the perfectionist but if you go to the theatre looking for either alone you'll end up a bit disappointed after all the hype. Go watch the film for 3 hours of pure entertainment alone.

Release of a Rajni film is festve time for some people in Tamil Nadu: Images from the Sivaji Film Festival :P (from an EMail Forward)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A new Hippocratic Oath

All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.” Doctors have to take the Hippocratic Oath, named after Hippokrates of Kos (460-370 BCE). No one knows whether the Hippocratic Corpus of seventy medical works, which includes the Oath, was actually authored by Hippokrates or his students. Nor is the classic Oath, with references to Greek gods and goddesses like Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia (from whom we get the word hygiene) and Panacea invoked now. Instead, we have modern versions based on a Geneva Declaration of 1948; references to spreading abroad have been excised. In aftermath of the attempted Glasgow bombing, doctors figure prominently among suspects; doctors from India.True, we have no more than the finger of suspicion now. But let’s not forget our Omar Khayyam. “The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash a word out of it.” Proven or not, the finger of suspicion may land on several Indian self-perceptions.

One of them, of course, is about India and terror import-export. India imports terror, is a victim of it, has been the national perception. Will that change if global perceptions change. Related to that is a crucial economic question, which also engenders a self-perception, we are first rate pool for global skill migration. Every year, around 270,000 emigrants leave India. That is 3 per cent of global migrant population. In 2006, India’s migrants sent home an estimated $26.9 billion, 3.3 per cent of GDP; 15 million Indians live abroad.These emigrants are of different types and professional emigration to Britain, the US, Canada or Australia is not quite the same as relatively lower skilled emigration to the Middle East. Within the medical fraternity, 59,095 doctors work abroad, primarily in the four countries mentioned: 4.9 per cent of total doctors in the US are Indians, 10.9 per cent in Britain.

Migration, of course, is coterminus with the beginning of human evolution, people have always moved elsewhere in search of better resources and opportunities. There is push of lack of opportunities in the homeland and pull of better prospects in the new home. No one can object to doctors emigrating (only a few return), even if the desire for greater prosperity is sometimes cloaked as desire for specialised training. If supply-side adjustments in medical training occur (a big if), there is plenty more in the labour pool to compensate for the 1,500 or so who exit every year. But there is one caveat. Every doctor trained in India receives $40,000 in public subsidies. We should eliminate these. As long as subsidies remain, shouldn’t we insist on a payback before emigration?

There may be tighter controls on immigration post-Glasgow. But the West has no option. Net welfare gains from immigration are obvious. Add to that labour shortages and the ageing population in developed countries. The social security system remains financially viable only if a steady stream of relatively young and highly skilled workers (professional category) joins the labour force to pay premiums. If such populations are not available at home, they can only come from abroad. That is the general point.

More specifically, medical systems (like National Health Service or NHS in Britain) will simply collapse. Incidentally, this is the 60th anniversary of NHS and a complete review of NHS has just been announced, under the chairmanship of Sir Ara Darzi. One doubts that Darzi Committee will recommend the impossible, complete replacement of foreign doctors in NHS by the indigenous variety. Instead, because the West is now justifiably paranoid about security and terrorist threats, there will be tighter controls, not just on transit through airports, but also on relatively permanent immigration. And almost inevitably, this will involve stereotyping, labelling and generalisation, based on ethnicity and racial profiling. This already existed implicitly and de facto. Glasgow contributes towards making it explicit and de jure.

One wants to keep out the undesired and allow in the desired, reducing probability of risk to zero. But that is not how it works. Collateral damage will occur by keeping out some with no ulterior motives, simply because they fit stereotypes. There is nothing Indian government can do and perhaps this is a good thing, given subsidies on doctors and shortage in numbers. Simultaneously, entry barriers won’t necessarily keep out the undesired. The ones under suspicion now would probably have slipped through filters, because they are people like us. Before the event, who would have suspected doctors, of the medical or dissertation varieties?

That apart, there are instances of discontent within British and American nationals. It is not as if the indigenous population is risk-free. Where does that leave us? Perhaps one should go back to Hippokrates. At that time, the dominant Knidian school of medicine was based on diagnosis and because knowledge of human anatomy was imperfect, this was often wrong. The Hippocratic or Koan school turned out to be superior because it used prognosis. Knee-jerk reactions to terrorism, inevitable though they may be, hinge on diagnosis, not prognosis.

Perhaps, the new Middle Eastern Peace Envoy, who happened to be an ex-British prime minister, should find a solution. Palestine and India were divided along religious lines by the British almost 60 years ago, roughly when NHS was also set up.

From The Indian Express

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Which of these makes you proud that you're an Indian?

  • India has it's first women President in 6o years yet, India's first woman IPS officer with near impeccable credentials is pipped for the top job in Delhi Police by a male two years her junior. (Link)

  • The UPA government is planning to announce Sonia Gandhi's Birthday as Girl Child Day (Link) yet some women in a village in Rajasthan are not allowed out of their houses under threat of a Rs.10,000 because one woman married a man from another caste.

  • When even women IAS officers don't seem to be safe from molesters (Link), no wonder then children continue to be sexually abused all over India (Link, Link, Link)

  • While an innocent Indian Doctor labelled a terrorist languished in an Australian jail for a month the Indian government did only lip service (Link), But in the past even foreign nationals convicted for waging war against the nation were pardoned and released on diplomatic pressure from other nations. (Link) Colonial hangover? When our government does little for the millions in India, what's one life in a foreign nation?

  • 60 years after Independence, even though punishable under law, we still have child labourers and Manual scavengers (Link)

  • The Taj Mahal was selected by a private foundation as one of the new 7 wonders a reason to rejoice? The Taj is surrounded by filth and is dying (Link)