The Q Scam Monday, Mar 5 2007 

Indian public don’t know what Sonia Gandhi‘s maiden name was, but almost all TV viewing Indians know an Italian name connected with her. Quattrocchi. This man is synonymous with probably the most infamous corruption scandal in India: Bofors. How the Italian angle worked for the multi-million-dollar kickbacks in a major defense deal with Bofors when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India is an open secret. It’s said that Sonia, as Rajiv’s wife, played her role in the scandal from behind the curtain. The case is almost 20 years old.

QuattrocchiQuattrocchi is believed to have received $ 7 million from the $ 2.1 billion Bofors gun deal.

As the chairperson of the coalition that rules India and the president of the party that leads the coalition government, she’s embarrassed and the government is rattled since the news flash that Quattrochi was arrested in Argentina on Feb 6 (he was later released on bail on Feb 23). But the government and the country’s premier investigation agency, CBI, hid the information from the public and the judiciary. A cover up.

In the parliament the opposition did all its tricks to expose the government in the matter. Not only the opposition but also some coalition partners of the government are also up in arms, especially the redoubtable CPI (M).

Following a petition by an advocate, the Supreme Court of India has sought the Central Government’s response regarding the extradition treaty India has with Argentina. The court sees the issue as “a serious” matter.

Since Argentina’s track record on extradition is not favorable and the Indian Government’s own commitment to pursuing the case is questionable (although a team of CBI officials from India are already in Argentina), it’s certain that Quattrocchi will go scot-free once again. He’s an escape artist and a survival expert.

The Italian Ambassador in Argentina has shot a letter to a court in that country pleading for his release. Quattrocchi is a “much-decorated citizen of Italy”, a “knight”, the Ambassador said.

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Italian Spouses Thursday, Feb 8 2007 

It used to be that Italians did not look far from home when choosing a spouse. But new statistics show that they are increasingly marrying foreigners, with about one in 10 choosing a non-Italian spouse in what researchers call a “rapidly evolving phenomenon.” (Link)

This’s not news to us Indians, because the most famous “bahu” (daughter-in-law) in India is an Italian. She’s probably the most powerful individual in India and listed as one of the most powerful women in the world.

Everyone occupying public space, with the exception of those belonging to the right-wing RSS-BJP combine, is wary of the word “Italy” or “Italian” because a slip of the tongue may land them on the wrong side of political correctness. However, the right-wing politicians often kick up a storm of protest by interpolating those very words into whatever they say!

For the congress party it’s blasphemy.

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"Big Talk" Tuesday, Dec 5 2006 

Link to ABC News: Muslim Woman Gives Sex Advice on Arab TV

I think she is not familiar with ancient texts on this topic in other cultures. For instance ‘Kamasutra‘ of India, considered the first treatise in history on sex.

Although India prides itself as the land of Vatsyayana’s Kamamsutra, Indian society as a whole is conservative about sex and issues concerning it. Talking about it in public is taboo, but Bollywood movies are spiced up with scenes that are overtly sexual. Indian orthodoxy is up in arms about obscenity on TV and in films and demands a ban.

A local court in India has accepted a petition by a lawyer against the stars of a recent hit movie ‘Dhoom 2’. The petitioner contends that the film lowers the dignity of Indian women and conveys obscenity to youth.

Heba Kotb’s show is a bold move. There is great need for addressing issues related to sex decently so that many evils like AIDS that are direct consequences of ignorance concerning sexual matters among people, especially the youth, can be checked through increased awareness and openness.

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To Speak or Not to Speak English Sunday, Aug 27 2006 

I learn that it’s beneficial to babies if parents baby talk to them (as they do in their mother tongue) in a second language of their choice from early days. Some parents who are not conversant in a second language engage a tutor to do it.

In our case it’s a problem. We’re in a dilemma.

I had made up my mind to talk to our baby in English while Ani vowed to speak only Malayalam, our mother tongue. But when I tried it I discovered that I didn’t enjoy it for the simple reason that it didn’t give me any sense of fulfillment . On the contrary, baby talking to Pranav in my mother tongue is a highly rewarding experience for me. Gradually, talking to little Pranav in English began to sound comical to me and I stopped it altogether.

It’s certain from our life style that Prananv will learn Telugu (the language of Andhra Pradesh) and Hindi (our national language) only when he goes to school. He’ll learn them from his classmates and friends. He’ll be going to an English medium school, so naturally he’ll learn English at school. Since Ani and I are teachers, Pranav will get all necessary help from us both. Then we’ll feel comfortable speaking to him in English, because his lessons are in English and using English becomes an absolute necessity. One language that he’ll never need at school is his mother tongue!

If we neglect the mother tongue now, when he’s still a little baby, he’ll probably never acquire fluency in it and our native culture and its heritage will remain foreign to him forever.

But, is it advisable denying our son the opportunity to learn English from us from his early days? Should we put aside all other considerations and talk to him in English? Or shall we use both English and Malayalam (won’t it complicate his little mind)?

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Ways of Communicating Thursday, Aug 10 2006 

We are very good at choosing the right means of communication depending on the need and the choices available to us. And we have a surprising range of options available. How have these options affected the way we communicate?

A recent Swiss study conducted by Stefana Broadbent, who studies the economic and social aspects of telecommunications, says that:

Each new channel or media that appears slowly redefines the uses of the older existing media…: IM is currently redefining usage of short messaging; blogging is redefining the usage of e-mail; VoIP is changing the nature of a phone call. New patterns of communication emerge slowly, stabilize for a period, and then change again when new channels come along.

But how? See her explanation:

• The fixed phone is the collective channel: “a shared organizational tool for the whole household,” with most calls done in “public,” because they are relevant to other members of the household. Only 25% are done “privately,” from one’s bedroom or study.

• Mobile voice is “the micro coordination channel”: It is “the preferred channel for last-minute adjustment of plans or updates on where people are and what they are doing.” Surprisingly, “80 percent of all exchanges are with only four people.”

• SMS, or short messaging, is “for intimacy, emotions, and efficiency. Only the most intimate sphere of friends and family are contacted by SMS, and the content of the messages is often related to ‘grooming’ and emotional exchanges.”

• E-mail is “the administrative channel,” used to support online activities such as travel reservations and shopping, for coordination with extended social groups (clubs, friends, acquaintances), or for exchanging pictures, music, and other content with close social networks.

• IM and VoIP are “the continuous channels”: “users open an instant messaging channel for the day and then just keep it open in the background while they do other activities; they multitask—and step in and out of a conversation.” This starts to apply to VoIP as well (think Skype).

• Blogging is the broader networking channel: “Personal pages are often primarily a center of communication with friends and people online in general.”

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The Oldest Tortoise Dies Sunday, Mar 26 2006 

A giant aldabra tortoise thought to be around250 years old has died
in the Kolkata zoo of liver failure, Indian authorities said on Thursday
[23 March 2006].

The tortoise had been the pet of Robert Clive, the famous British
military officer in colonial India around the middle of the 18th century.

He had been witness to the tumultuous course of history- Indian history.

He saw his master (Robert Clive)
and his successors tightening the grip over India, determined to keep
India as the most precious possession of the British Empire. He saw the
first freedom struggle of the Indians (dubbed ‘Sepoy Mutiny‘ by the British) in the middle of the 19th century.

He had been witness to the freedom struggle that brought India freedom from the British in 1947, the partition of India and the largest human migration in history and the communal bloodbath that it had caused and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

He also witnessed the rise of Independent India as a secular democratic state, earning its rightful place in the comity of nations.

And now he is gone!

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A Classification Of The Rich Sunday, Mar 26 2006 

According to Forbes magazine there are 793 billionaires in the world today and their combined wealth is $2.6 trillion.

Billionaires have always intrigued the rest of us with their flashy life styles, expensive possessions, uncanny money-spinning skills, bewildering idiosyncrasies, etc.

Some inventive people have devoted themselves to the task of helping the rich better their lives in more ways than ordinarily possible by understanding them personally and gaining insight into their their psychology. Their swear by the motto:”to serve them, we have to understand the underlying person and what his or her value system is.”

Larry Samuel, a Ph.D. scholar, who has been studying the habits and behaviour of the millionaires and runs a market research firm, Culture Planning, on behalf of JPMorgan, has classified the American millionaires into “five archetypes, each with its own Passion Points, consuming habits, and style”. The five types are:

1. Thrillionaires

2. Coolionaires

3. Realionaires

4. Wellionaires  and

5. Willionaires

To know them in detail, please follow this link.

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Holi, The Carnival Of Colour Splash Sunday, Mar 19 2006 

On 15 March India celebrated Holi, probably the most boisterous and frenetic of all the festivals of Hindus. Holi is a carnival of colors and is celebrated by splashing and spraying colors on one another. In the frenzied celebration of Holi, differences of age, gender, status and the like vanish. The revelers forget themselves for a day in the wild mirth.

Those who are reluctant to participate in such wild celebration can still oblige those who are bent on playing Holi with them by simply allowing the revelers to dab and daub colors on their forehead and cheeks.

As Holi approaches, everyone forgets the dangers of reckless revelry. Schools remind students of the need to choose harmless, natural colors and advise them to celebrate Holi safely by being careful not to squirt colors into eyes or pour onto the head. All are advised to be very careful while washing off the colors in tanks and lakes after long hours of riotous celebration. Still Holi doesn’t pass off without reports of one or other hazards.

Many deaths have been reported from all over India. Of the twenty one deaths that have been reported in our state (Andhra Pradesh), eight have been from Hyderabad city alone. Two of them occurred at Vennelagadda, which is very near our residential area and a third at Suraram, one of the neighboring areas.

Photos of Holi celebration
on 15 March 2006.
A brief introduction to Holi and some of its legends.

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Against the Visit Tuesday, Feb 28 2006 

The Committee against the visit of U.S. President George Bush on Monday
declared that he “was certainly not welcome in India.” “We emphatically
oppose the forthcoming visit… President Bush is the topmost official of U.S. imperialism, leading enemy of the sovereignty of nations and the peoples of the world today. He is the leader of the imperialist quest at neo-colonial world domination. He is certainly not welcome in India… “


Communal Politics Saturday, Feb 18 2006 

Next to Indonesia India has the largest number of Muslims. The reaction of the Indian Muslims to the cartoon controversy has been more or less muted. An uncharacteristic thing.

India, a secular democratic nation, was the first country to ban Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, a move that surprised even the Indian Muslims. They hadn’t expected the government to cave in so quickly and easily. It’ll surprise you to know that Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa came later.

There is a strong, powerful Muslim lobby in the Congress party and they always succeed in devising ways to appease the Muslim community to curry favour with them so that their crucial votes help the congress to hang on to power.

India’s vote-bank politics have always seen to that the Muslims, the next majority population after the Hindus, are always kept in good humour, often alienating the Hindus and pushing them into the fundamentalist organizations and political parties.

India has taken a stand against Iran in the current nuclear standoff, triggering a nationwide debate on the issue. But the politicians have already started making noise saying that India can’t ignore the sensibilities of its Muslim population in the issue. (Iran is a Muslim Nation; Indian Muslims want Iran have a Muslim bomb! India should support it, etc.). A strange argument. Dangerous, too.

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