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Archive for January, 2009


computer2Do you remember that a few posts ago, I had protested against a Christian Wife Disciplining (Domestic abuse) book on Amazon.

I had said that I was shocked to check this link posted at TW. The stories written by Leah Kelly are truly sickening! Any idea on how to petition Amazon to stop selling such books?

Today, I check out Amazon to read the reviews on Kite Runner and I find that books of grown men spanking women appears as search history. And Amazon heads off that section with “You might like this…..”

Ugh! First thing I am annoyed that Amazon should record my search history and secondly the header is “You might like this….” Nauseating!

I am really not for these hidden cookies that are there on every site, which record your history. Its supposed to make your online experience better, but somehow all this electronic-spying freaks me.

On Facebook again, there might be walls. But I am not sure that I want all the 80 people on my friend’s list to read what I have been doing, who I have been chatting with and what latest games I played. Facebook, Orkut and Myspace collect and store personal information to increase the “user’s experience.” But then what is not often mentioned is that they are ok with sharing this information to google, other websites and SMS services.

Why should my age, occupation, gender and the fact that I like Asterix & Obelix, be made available for the general edification of the public at large? When asked, Facebook has stated that it wants to provide a “more personalized service that will increase our enjoyment.”

And what happens if Facebook or Orkut are taken over by another company? Well there is a transfer of all the information owned by these organizations to the new owner.

And again people do all kinds of stupid things on Orkut. They give their cellphone numbers; they give their home addresses; they even fix up dates via their scrapbook. If you made a fool of yourself when you were 14, would you like Facebook or Orkut, carefully storing that information so that they could “maximize your enjoyment” even after you were 21?

Google privacy policy forms part of signing up on YouTube. So if you have signed into your account, you will have YouTube happily storing away everything about you.

Let me see, what was the last video I saw on YouTube…….. it was this horrid video of T Rajender spouting his usual nonsense and insulting a fellow-member of the press.

So, will YouTube now take this as proof that I am a big fan of T Rajender?

I have never used Yahoo’s services. But reading their privacy terms didn’t really tempt me to sign up. They say, ‘Once you register with Yahoo! and sign in to our services, you are not anonymous to us.’

What is this whole ‘user experience’ that they use as justification? Well, its basically hidden cookies that track every website we visit and every product we see, so that they can jam our inbox with spam.

And then there are your friends. Some of my friends have no problem downing drinks in front of the cameras. Though a teetotaler, there have been many parties I have attended where the drinks were freely flowing. Now, I find that some of these pictures have been uploaded onto my friends’ social networking sites. I find that irritating to say the least! Even if you are very private and not given into sharing personal information on the net, you will find that you are on someone or something’s database.

And so far I am just talking about image-consiousness. What about more serious threats like that of sexual predators?computer13

I am also not for large corporations or government bodies (in particular the US) having access to my entire Internet history. What if a guy had been through sex abuse as a kid and hence reads up a lot on that subject. If he mails his CV to Amazon, what if they decide to look up his search history? They will no doubt dub him a “weirdo” or think he has bad taste and dump his resume.

One must never forget the moral behind the Quechup expose. This social networking site used the email addresses on its database for a spamming operation.

Basically this means “Invasion of Privacy.” And I am dead against it!

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I can’t believe my friend and photo journalist Jawapix from IE has actually taken the time and effort to upload my pictures onto picaso. When I took these pictures I was using a manual SLR, so we had to scan some of the pictures. This post was to say a Big Thank You to him. You can view some of my photos at picasoweb. If you think I have a pre-occupation with food, you maybe right – I still have a few extra pounds that I can’t explain away 🙂

breakfast

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labelledameMarion Zimmer Bradley retells the Arthurian legends from the point of view of the women – the much maligned Morgaine, Viviane, Igraine, Gwenhwyfar and Morguase. A feminist perspective which gives the classic characters new depth and dimension. It’s a fantastic and pleasant read, whose flaws don’t make it any less interesting.

The Mists of Avalon politics and intrigue take place at a time when Christianity is taking over the pagan worshipping island-nation of Britain – it shows the legendary rise and fall of Camelot. God vs Goddess, Christianity vs Paganism, Patriarchy vs Matriarchy, Love vs lust are some of the dominant themes of the book.

Though Bradley explores interesting ideas in ‘Avalon,’ her writing is disorganized to the extreme. In her efforts to cover everything – King Arthur’s Round Table, Pellinore’s dragon, the Holy Grail, – the book become an enormous tome of almost 900 pages with

Too much mush and too much Christianity is bad and Paganism is good. When we actually see the hard lives Morgaine and Viviane have to lead because of their faith, the harsh decisions that they take – one would prefer the less-taxing Christian God who doesn’t seem to mind having dumb priests in his service.

Gwynhwyfar and Lancelot have to be the most irritating characters ever created. From a vapid, frightened, stupidly-prejudiced girl, Gwynhwyfar grows into a hypocritical, adulterous and seemingly pious, over-religious female.

Gwenhwyfar is shown to deeply fear and hate the Goddess yet she had no compunctions in asking Morgaine for a charm to cure her bareness. And again her constant bullying of King Arthur to turn the country Christian is nothing short of tyrannical. She uses her knowledge of theladyofshallot2 incestuous (accidental) relationship he has with his sister as a Damocles sword over his head to emotionally blackmail him and get what she wants. Also her own inability to carry a child, she blames on Druid Kevin when she miscarries. Gwenhwyfar is so whiney and whimpey that one wishes Arthur had just shut her up (as he was advised by many of his councilors).

Lancelot is another irrriating character. He is never happy with what he has, but is always lusting after something or the other. There is a also a hint by Bradley that he might be a homosexual, because of his attraction to Arthur and the threesome they once have during the Beltane fires.

The fight between Christianity and paganism is delightful to watch; in particular the arguments and counter-arguments placed. For me these thoughts resemble my own struggle to relate Christianity and the dominant religion of my country-Hinduism.

Believers of each religion seek to influence both Arthur and Uther – but ultimately Christianity ascends the throne.

The Isle of Avalon is painted in bright, seraphic, rose-tinted colours. The Isle is the centre for druids and priestess, inititated into the worship of the Goddess and one of the last abodes in Britain still untouched by Roman occupation or Christianity. The island surrounds itself in a mystical era – the mists and fogs protect this haven from the once-borns or those lacking in physic powers.

An interesting and pleasant read, for everyone except the history buff!

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escapism1I think my blog is definitely escapist in nature. It never seems to dwell on the harsher things in life. I have very rarely commented on political affairs or business. At this point of time, the Indian media is focused on our PM’s heart condition, Pricewater’s auditors and the Sri Lankan Army’s military victories in the North, but reading my blog one would think it all sweetness and light air in the world. Reading my blog, you would never guess I was a journalist. And then again I never write about any of my personal troubles ; not that I have many 🙂 .

My friends say blogging is all about sharing things with people and accuse me of being close-mouthed about what’s happening in my life. Some of my friends on the blogroll are quite comfortable sharing how “horrid that b**** in office is..” and “How they wish they could beat up that m****f*****.

That way I guess I am still old-fashioned – I share only what I am comfortable with sharing. The blog is not my sound-off and neither do I want to become some kind of agony aunt.

I wonder at my fellow-bloggers. If they keep on bitching about the people in their office, will it not lower their chances of employment elsewhere? And also can they not sued by the company, since people know which company they are working for even if they don’t mention it by name? And again what if their boss happened to come across their blog and read all the horrible things they had to say about him?

And if you are going to write about your friend’s marriage or her engagement…for all you know she might not be comfortable with you sharing that news with the entire world. There was this blogger, who posted huge pictures of her boyfriend on her blog….a few months later when she broke off her engagement with him, she still had people congratulating her on her engagement on the blog. Unnecessary and embarrassing explanations had to follow with each comment. Or maybe I’m wronging the person, maybe she was quite comfortable with the world knowing everything about what happened to her on the personal front. But this level of openness somehow makes me uneasy – in India with everyone being so traditional and hypocritical – it is tough to be really open about our personal affairs and expect people to respect our decisions.

There also those who give the world wide web a minute-by-minute account of their social activities. If you want to rave about the sushi made in the city’s hottest eatery, no one is stopping you. In fact people will find your review both enjoyable and useful. Or if you donated something to a charity; feel good about yourself, blog about it. But Friday night bingeing, pubs and drunken driving should be definite No, Nos. For one – your public image will go for a toss and secondly – your chances of employability will definitely go down. And again reading about how someone puked is not everyone’s cup of tea and might actually bring down your blog readership. This last line makes me sound saintly and snooty – its not like I am part of the temperance movement, but I do wish that people would give a little more thought to what they write about.

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sms-talk1Google’s Official Blog says:

Here at Google, we’re committed to helping build a clean energy future and reducing our carbon footprint. And now Google Talk is part of the solution. We don’t know about you, but we were surprised to learn the inconvenient truth that every character (byte) we send in a message results in about 0.0000000000000000034 metric tons* of CO2 being released into the atmosphere! So if we can reduce the number of characters we send when we chat with all our friends, we can help the environment at the same time.

Teenagers (and some adults) must be aware of this, because they already reduce their character usage by abbreviating words and dropping vowels when they send IM and SMS (text) messages. We think this is a great idea. If all our millions of users started using IM-speak, we’d save hundreds of millions of wasted (and environmentally damaging!) characters.

For example, if we want to say:
As far as I'm concerned, you can give me the twenty dollars you owe me when I see you later.

You could save more than 50% in wasted characters by saying:
AFAIC, U can gve me the 20 $$ YOM whn I CUL8R.

In honor of Earth Day (3 weeks from today: April 22, 2008), on that day our Google Talk servers will start automatically sending your conversations using IM-speak instead of normal words. But you can help save some computing power (and more wasted energy!) by shortening your conversations yourself.

And here I was thinking that people were killing the language by resorting to “SMS talk.” At least my friend Hari will be happy. He always says girl-textthat the purpose of speaking or writing is to communicate. I have always taken exception to the fact that he writes his blog, like he was text messaging his friends. Now it looks like he’ll have a good defense 🙂

For me the problem is unconsciously this language seeps in, even when you don’t want it to. I remember as a sub, I was proof-reading a page to find that someone had written “know” for “now” and “ur” for “your.” Such mistakes usually escape the eye, because its the phonetics that register.

My English professor says that you will find such spellings even in project reports and assignments. For instance, this becomes dis, sorry becomes sari, what is becomes whatz, because becomes coz, should becomes shud, take care become tc, okay becomes K, My becomes mah, How are you becomes howzzit and For becomes fer.

Americans I think should be held responsible for this dumbing down of language. If everyone started spelling phonetically, then we might as well use sign language.

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Tata & Infosys

A true story with a twist 🙂

It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was getting warm and gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies’ hostel. Other girls were pursuing research in different departments of Science.

I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a doctorate in computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in the US … I had not thought of taking up a job in India ..

One day, while on the way to my hostel from our lecture-hall complex, I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a standard job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now Tata Motors)… It stated that the company required young, bright engineers, hardworking and with an excellent academic background, etc.

At the bottom was a small line: ‘Lady Candidates need not apply.’

I read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up against gender discrimination.

Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I had done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male peers…
Little did I know then that in real life academic excellence is not enough to be successful?

After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform the topmost person in Telco’s management about the injustice the company was perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but there was a problem: I did not know who headed Telco

jrdtataI thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant Moolgaokar was the company’s chairman then) I took the card, addressed it to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember clearly what I wrote.

‘The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India , such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles and locomotives they have cared for higher education in India since 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender.’

I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than 10 days later, I received a telegram stating that I had to appear for an interview at Telco’s Pune facility at the company’s expense. I was taken aback by the telegram. My hostel mate told me I should use the opportunity to go to Pune free of cost and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap! I collected Rs30 each from everyone who wanted a sari when I look back, I feel like laughing at the reasons for my going, but back then they seemed good enough to make the trip.

It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell in love with the city.

To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at home in Pune as I do in Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so many ways. As directed, I went to Telco’s Pimpri office for the interview.

There were six people on the panel and I realized then that this was serious business.

‘This is the girl who wrote to JRD,’ I heard somebody whisper as soon as I entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I would not get the job. The realization abolished all fear from my mind, so I was rather cool while the interview was being conducted.

Even before the interview started, I reckoned the panel was biased, so I told them, rather impolitely, ‘I hope this is only a technical interview.’

They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today I am ashamed about my attitude.
The panel asked me technical questions and I answered all of them.

Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice told me, ‘Do you know why we said lady candidates need not apply? The reason is that we have never employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a co-ed college; this is a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a first ranker throughout. We appreciate that, but people like you should work in research laboratories.

I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world had been a limited place.

I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their difficulties, so I answered, ‘But you must start somewhere, otherwise no woman will ever be able to work in your factories.’

Finally, after a long interview, I was told I had been successful. So this was what the future had in store for me. Never had I thought I would take up a job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka there, we became good friends and we got married.

It was only after joining Telco that I realized who JRD was: the uncrowned king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did not get to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay. One day I had to show some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM.. I was in his office on the first floor of Bombay House (the Tata headquarters) when, suddenly JRD walked in. That was the first time I saw ‘appro JRD’. Appro means ‘our’ in Gujarati. This was the affectionate term by which people at Bombay House called him.

I was feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard episode. SM introduced me nicely, ‘Jeh (that’s what his close associates called him), this young woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate.

She is the first woman to work on the Telco shop floor.’ JRD looked at me. I was praying he would not ask me any questions about my interview (or the postcard that preceded it).

Thankfully, he didn’t. Instead, he remarked. ‘It is nice that girls are getting into engineering in our country. By the way, what is your name?’

‘When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir,’ I replied. ‘Now I am Sudha Murthy.’ He smiled and kindly smile and started a discussion with SM. As for me, I almost ran out of the room.

jrdzAfter that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the Tata Group chairman and I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we had in common. I was in awe of him.

One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to pick me up after office hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me. I did not know how to react. Yet again I started worrying about that postcard. Looking back, I realize JRD had forgotten about it. It must have been a small incident for him, but not so for me.

‘Young lady, why are you here?’ he asked. ‘Office time is over.’ I said, ‘Sir, I’m waiting for my husband to come and pick me up.’ JRD said, ‘It is getting dark and there’s no one in the corridor.

I’ll wait with you till your husband comes.’

I was quite used to waiting for Murthy, but having JRD waiting alongside made me extremely uncomfortable.

I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked at him. He wore a simple white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was glowing. There wasn’t any air of superiority about him. I was thinking, ‘Look at this person. He is a chairman, a well-respected man in our country and he is waiting for the sake of an ordinary employee.’

Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and said, ‘Young lady, tell your husband never to make his wife wait again.’ In 1982 I had to resign from my job at Telco. I was reluctant to go, but I really did not have a choice. I was coming down the steps of Bombay House after wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD coming up. He was absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him, so I stopped. He saw me and paused.

Gently, he said, ‘So what are you doing, Mrs. Kulkarni?’ (That was the way he always addressed me..) ‘Sir, I am leaving Telco.’

‘Where are you going?’ he asked. ‘Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a company called Infosys and I’m shifting to Pune.’

‘Oh! And what will you do when you are successful.’

‘Sir, I don’t know whether we will be successful.’ ‘Never start with diffidence,’ he advised me ‘Always start with confidence. When you are successful you must give back to society. Society gives us so much; we must reciprocate. Wish you all the best.’

Then JRD continued walking up the stairs. I stood there for what seemed like a millennium. That was the last time I saw him alive.

Many years later I met Ratan Tata in the same Bombay House, occupying the chair JRD once did. I told him of my many sweet memories of working with Telco. Later, he wrote to me, ‘It was nice hearing about Jeh from you.
The sad part is that he’s not alive to see you today.’

I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an extremely busy person, he valued one postcard written by a young girl seeking justice. He must have received thousands of letters everyday. He could have thrown mine away, but he didn’t do that. He respected the intentions of that unknown girl, who had neither influence nor money, and gave her an opportunity in his company. He did not merely give her a job; he changed her life and mindset forever.

Close to 50 per cent of the students in today’s engineering colleges are girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many industry segments. I see these changes and I think of JRD. If at all time stops and asks me what I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive today to see how the company we started has grown. He would have enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

My love and respect for the House of Tata remains undiminished by the passage of time. I always looked up to JRD. I saw him as a role model for his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the care he took of his employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky; they had the same vastness and magnificence.

sudha-murthy_26(Sudha Murthy is a widely published writer and chairperson of the Infosys Foundation involved in a number of social development initiatives. Infosys chairman Narayana Murthy is her husband.)

I came across this story at RA‘s blog and wanted to re-post it. I found it interesting, despite Sudha Murthy’s attempt at poetic praise.

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fairlovelySometimes I get so floored by all this skin consciousness. I think that people ought to ban things like “Fair & Lovely.” As it is we Indians, are obsessed with white skin. Don’t tell me I don’t know about this or I am wrong!

I have often taken out foreign missionaries to see the sights in Chennai. With the white foreigners, people fawn all over them. However, when missionaries from Nigeria or South Africa come here, they are ridiculed, insulted and derided. I’d feel ashamed to call myself an Indian when I see the differential treatment meted out just because of the skin colour. There are times when I have cringed and wished I could disappear under the sofa, when people stared and just stared at my Nigerian friends. It used to make me mad. During one such incident, I got so angry that I really started shouting loudly and bringing the place down….a first for me, as usually I am a very peaceable soul….I was shouting so hard and so furious my whole body was trembling. And the worst thing is such racists are cowards – they were speaking in Tamil, even though they all knew English – so that the Nigerians, who were the butt of their ridicule, couldn’t understand.

Just check out the matrimonial ads of any Indian newspaper, you will find all the ads extremely “racist and castiest.” Every groom there will be on the lookout out for a “fair, wheatish complexioned girl from such-and-such caste, plus such-and-such sub-caste.” And its not just the women…..One of  my friends, who studied in the social work department of MCC, in a survey found out that there were as many men using Fair & Lovely products as women.

And then there was another relative of mine, who came to me and said, “You haven’t taken after your mother; she is so fair and lovely. But atbleaching least you are not as black as your father. With your height, it will be tough to find a mapillai (groom) for you.”

Excuse me! You insult my family left, right and centre and then I’m supposed to grow short so that you can fulfill your self-imposed match-making duties?

And there was another person who commented: “You have a chocolate brown skin. Are all Tamilians this colour?” I guess I was supposed to take the “chocoloate brown” (Clarification: I love both chocolates and the colour) as a compliment, and then give him a dissertation on the skin colour-spectrum of the Dravidian race?

And then in the arranged marriage set-up, not much weightage is given to the girl’s educational qualification or her views, they look at her up and down; check out her weight, colour, salary, etc. If it doesn’t suit their specifications, they will say: “since conditions did not apply the offer has been withdrawn.”

Sometimes, I get frustrated with my friends also. So if you don’t like being checked out like a cow at the village fair, then say “NO” to arranged marriages. But they won’t want to hurt their dear parents (who are also subjecting them to this kind of subtle torture) or break social norms; so they will whine and pine about the injustice of prospective grooms and in-laws while doing nothing to change it.

TLC’s Unpretty

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